Members Area

2024 Founders Fund Recipients

The Garden Club of America’s (GCA) Founders Fund was established in 1934 to provide financial support, through a competitive grant program, to projects proposed by GCA member clubs. The projects are designed to restore, improve, and protect the quality of the environment through educational programs and action in the fields of conservation and civic improvement. 

The first Founders Fund award of $700 was presented in 1936 to the Amateur Gardeners Club for an English-language publication of the oldest known American herbal, the 1552 Badianus Manuscript, Johns Hopkins Press. Since then, two-hundred seventy-two Founders Fund winners and runners-up have received more than $1.5 million to save thousands of acres of land and innumerable trees, to restore historic landmarks, to establish civic plantings, and to conduct research and educational projects across the country.

Replanting Indigenous and Historic Northeastern Species to create an Edible Plant Learning Center at the Jay Estate in Rye, New York

Proposed by: The Little Garden Club of Rye, Zone III

Seconded by: Rye Garden Club, Zone III

Proposed by The Little Garden Club of Rye, the Founders Fund award will secure the “capstone” of this eminent botanical learning center with the restoration of indigenous and historic Northeastern plant species.

The $40,000 winning grant will support the study of native vegetation in this dedicated outdoor classroom for thousands of visitors throughout the NY/NJ/CT area. A robust curriculum will focus on the pivotal role that native plants - pawpaws, elderberry, blueberry - have played in healthy, sustainable human and wildlife communities over time as well as today.

The project will implement a custom design by Honorary GCA Member Larry Weaner for planting of a 2.7-acre area restoring edible indigenous and historic Northeastern plant species to create an Edible Learning Center. A companion curriculum delivered by JHC’s Horticultural Director, Lucia Maestro, will focus on the pivotal role that native plants have played in healthy and sustainable human and wildlife communities. Artifacts found during archaeology attest to the presence of indigenous tribes and their reliance upon native trees and plants for sustenance and more.

 JHC will collaborate on this programming with current partners, including the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, New York/New Jersey Trails, the Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, Planting Westchester, and Sustainable Westchester while reaching out to newer national partners, such as Doug Tallamy’s Homegrown National Park. As one of fewer than 2,600 National Historic Landmark sites in the country, the Jay Estate is a rare cultural and natural sanctuary, which illustrates the changing stewardship of land in the United States over a well-documented continuum of 10,000 years.

Two additional grants of $10,000 each have been awarded by The Garden Club of America. 

Conserving Natives! The Restoration of an Orchid Learning Center

Proposed by The Garden Club of Palm Beach, Zone VIII

Seconded by The Grass River Garden Club, Zone VIII

Florida’s native orchids once neared extinction when they were ripped from trees and shipped north. Now, however, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Pine Jog Environmental Education Center grows thirteen native orchid varieties, educates the local community, and conducts school programs placing native orchids on local school campuses. Proposed by The Garden Club of Palm Beach, the $10,000 grant award will build a much-needed orchid learning center and slat house to nurture orchids while serving as an outdoor classroom for thousands of students and community who visit annually.        

Established in 1960 by Mrs. Elizabeth Kay, who was also a founding member of The Garden Club of Palm Beach, the FAU Pine Jog Environmental Education Center (Pine Jog) is among the oldest nature centers in the nation. Providing cutting-edge environmental education, Pine Jog’s programs serve thousands of students, teachers and the community, both onsite and in the community and local schools.

In 2015, Pine Jog established a Micropropagation Laboratory to grow endangered orchids in order to achieve two goals: to restore the orchids to their native habitat and to teach about the importance of conservation and environmental responsibility. The objective for this grant is to create the Pine Jog Orchid Learning Center, the hub of which will be a re-creation of Mrs. Kay’s original slat house that once stood on the property and housed hundreds of native orchids and plants. This structure is the “missing link” to provide much needed space to nurture tender young orchids after deflasking them from the lab and before Pine Jog disburses them to school and community sites. 

Green Space becomes Caring Space: Church Health Community Garden

Proposed by: Memphis Garden Club, Zone IX

Seconded by: Little Rock Garden Club, Zone IX

Green space becomes Caring Space: Church Health Community Garden is designed to enrich the existing community garden and will use the $10,000 grant award to construct a multipurpose pavilion. Proposed by the Memphis Garden Club, this pavilion will serve as a central gathering space for a range of wellness activities and educational programs, benefiting various stakeholders including staff and patients of Church Health at Crosstown, Crosstown High School, the surrounding neighborhood, and beyond. It will promote holistic well-being through the benefits of gardening and nature.

The new pavilion will provide space for workshops, lectures, group activities, and communal gatherings. This versatile structure will allow us to host a variety of events throughout the year. The partnership with Integrated Health Care Collaboration will facilitate wellness programs such as yoga, physical therapy, and occupational therapy within the pavilion's serene ambiance. The pavilion will extend Crosstown High School’s curriculum outdoors, providing a dynamic learning environment for subjects such as biology, environmental science, art and nutrition. Students will actively participate in garden seasonal installations, maintenance and hands-on education. New workshops featuring healthy cooking and nutrition education will be coupled with ongoing collaboratives through the established Nutrition Hub and Kitchen and many opportunities for community engagement and communal gardening and our vision of a multipurpose pavilion that catalyzes physical, mental, and educational well-being within our community.