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Founders Fund Through the Years


May 19, 2022

Bee Healthy Garden Transforms Lives and Teaches Relationship Building

In 2017, The Garden Club of America awarded a $30,000 Founders Fund grant to the Kettle Moraine Garden Club (KMGC) for the Bee Healthy Garden at The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee’s (BGCGM) 300-acre Camp Whitcomb-Mason. The grant helped support and expand the Bee Healthy Garden, where 15,000 inner-city children, aged from seven to eighteen, participate in nature-related and relationship-building activities. The purpose of Bee Healthy Garden, with its vegetable-filled pizza garden, bee hives, living sundial installation, and plans for more gardens, is for nature to provide a path to lead inner-city youth to a positive future, as well as help teach art, science, and a love of gardening. The Boys and Girls Club’s aim is to increase educational and social emotional learning (SEL) opportunities.

The Founders Fund grant helped pay for the construction of a twenty-foot in diameter yurt, an integral part of the program. Additional donations for the project came from Time-Warner Cable, Home Depot, and BGCGM trustees. Yurt construction began in 2017 and was finished in late 2018.  But this was just the beginning. 

The Founders Fund grant was the first collaboration between KMGC and the Bee Healthy Garden and it paved the way for future projects. Today, the club continues its support and involvement with The Boys and Girls Club’s programs. The pizza garden (wedge-shaped vegetable beds filled with tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onions, leeks, peas, and beans), supplies produce to make pizza for the children in a new outdoor kitchen’s pizza oven. A living sundial, named for a past KMGC president, was laid out by the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s astronomy department which calculated where to place the hour stones to read the time accurately. 

The hammock village, underwritten by two KMGC members, is a circle of hammocks connected by a single pole and presents a non-threatening and relaxed venue to discuss conflicts and reach resolutions. Both the hammock village and the yurt are used as incentives to encourage positive behaviors—such as rewarding the cleanest cabin with a sleepover in the yurt or two hours outdoor cabin time in the hammock village. KMGC members volunteer regularly at the Bee Healthy Garden. On Tuesdays, KMGC members teach nature related activities from leaf printing to pavé-style vegetable arrangements.

The Founders Fund was established in 1934 to provide annual monetary awards to civic improvement projects proposed by GCA member clubs. The award initially was endowed in memory of the GCA’s first president, Elizabeth Price Martin (Mrs. J. Willis) of Philadelphia, who served from 1913-20. Generous gifts from clubs and individuals have since augmented the fund.

The first award of $700 was presented in 1936 for an English-language publication of the oldest known American herbal, the 1552 Badianus Manuscript, by 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, restore historic landmarks, establish civic plantings, and conduct research and educational projects across the country.


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