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News: The GCA’s 2020 Founders Fund Winners Announced


July 07, 2020

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. This year the $30,000 winning grant was awarded to Crossnore School & Children's Home, a child welfare organization supporting children and families in crisis in Winston-Salem, NC. 

Twin City Garden Club (TCGC) proposed the winning project and has partnered with Crossnore School & Children’s Home to enhance a permaculture food and sensory forest for developing trauma resiliency. This garden sanctuary, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on a 212-acre urban campus, brings the children it serves and the community together by restoring souls through soil. Crossnore’s campus houses 45 foster children and serves over 450 others daily through Kingswood School outpatient therapeutic services, Youth in Transition, soft skills job placement, and after-school programs. Children and youth interact with the farm every day through Crossnore’s holistic curriculum.

TCGC members have a deep connection to the Children’s Home, which was established in 1909 and merged with Crossnore School in 2017. TCGC members have volunteered and provided financial support with a recent donation of $20,000 to Crossnore’s garden at Miracle Grounds Farm. 

After lengthy planning in June 2019, TCGC broke ground on a quarter-acre interactive garden where the children and the community can taste, smell, touch, and hear nature. With Crossnore staff, TCGC members have spent countless hours co-designing, co-creating, and working to establish the garden, which aims to be a self-sustaining place where children can heal by experiencing nature. 

Through its cutting-edge curriculum, Crossnore’s ideal environment supports techniques for healing painful pasts through education, art, and soil therapy. The GCA’s Founders Fund grant will enhance the garden with further plant varieties and soil enrichment for growing nutrient-dense food. A well, dug to access groundwater on the site, will provide a water source for the gardens. A child-friendly irrigation system will be installed incorporating hand-watering, rainwater collection, and a natural stone water feature for interactive play. TCGC contributed funds for the new well. Finally grant funds will be used to expand outreach for educational and art programs connecting children, families, and community to permaculture principles. The garden will become a model for establishing other self-sustaining gardens in disadvantaged neighborhoods and public schools throughout the city. The Garden Club Council, Winston-Salem, N.C. recently provided a beautification grant for additional plant material.

A permaculture edible and sensory landscape model incorporates regenerative agriculture from the root zone, building up to the tree canopy and providing needed nutrients. Native paw paw, plum, fig, apple and persimmon trees, blueberries, mulberries, gogi berries, wild strawberries, and various pollinators are examples of plants in the sanctuary. 

The food forest will provide a means for children to connect to soil, food, and life-cycles, allowing Crossnore therapists to draw metaphors to trauma cycles, developing trauma resilience and hope for flourishing futures. The garden sanctuary model mirrors the healing process and larger community vision of resilience, regeneration, growth, progress, and sustainability, reflecting GCA’s priorities to seed the future and bridge communities. The grant will strengthen the garden infrastructure and ensure its impactful and far-reaching effects. 

Additional grants of $10,000 each have been awarded by the Garden Club of America. Perennial Planters Garden Club (PPGC), Providence, Rhode Island, will use the funds to support its community project, CheerMobile: What Cheer Flower Farm on the Rhode. CheerMobile is a “What Cheer Flower Farm”  educational outreach program. The CheerMobile van will carry educational programming, including flower arranging and art classes to those who cannot travel to the farm located in Providence. To learn more about this project CLICK HERE

Garden Club of Madison (GCM), Madison, New Jersey will use the funds for its community project, Growing It Green in Paterson, NJ - Public School Rain Garden Project. Together with Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) and Rutgers University, the GCM will expand its transformational school rain garden program through GSWA’s hands-on environmental education programming. To learn more about this project CLICK HERE


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, by Johns Hopkins Press; a book about plants especially with reference to their medicinal properties. Since then, 90 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



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