Our 20th year as an organization has been a busy, productive, and rewarding year as we worked to fulfill our mission to serve as stewards of the environment, and provide education that promotes beautiful gardens and a healthy lifestyle.
We began the year with changes to the UGA volunteer requirements. As always, change is challenging and creates controversy. It was a trying time because we are all so passionate about what we do for the community and what is best for our organization. We worked through the issues and came to compromises that created a win-win situation. As a result, the spirit of our organization and our relationship with the Extension Office is even stronger today.
Our organization’s mission is achieved through the commitment of our volunteers. You came forward this year, as in the past, and provided leadership, service, and many, many hours of your time. You were there in terrible weather for the 4-H Plant Sale Pick-up day at the Fairgrounds, at numerous Ask-A-Master Gardener events, the Home Expo, working at Community Gardens, beautifying parks and recreational areas, being Angels to our Garden Tour hosts, and spreading your love of gardening while educating the public whenever and wherever you had the opportunity.
Your efforts have captured the attention of the media and there have been many wonderful articles on what Gwinnett Master Gardeners do in the community. We have become well-known throughout Gwinnett County as an organization that cares about our community and the environment and gets things done.
This year we awarded $5,000 in grants to community gardens, parks and recreational areas, and youth educational programs. We contributed $1,500 to higher education scholarships to support and encourage students studying horticulture.
Of course, we could not do this without the financial support of your dues and fundraising efforts. Your participation in the community has spread the word about our organization, and our membership exceeded the 200 milestone. This increases our volunteer force and income to support our activities. This year we raised funds through the Whole Foods Market 5% Day, our fabulous garden tour, cookbook sales, Master Gardener trainee breakfasts, and tonight’s drawing for these beautiful wreaths and centerpieces. I am pleased to report that we have exceeded our income goals and expenses are under budget.
As we all know, we get back more than we give through the sharing of information, friendships, and the fun we have working together. That is what forms the bond of our organization.
We have enjoyed many covered-dish suppers and learned from informative speakers at our monthly meetings about — Growing Up with Vines; Adding Interest to the Garden with Foliage, Bark and Berries; The World of Plant Propagation; Japanese Maples; Importance of Pollinators How to Spot a Dangerous Tree; Extending Your Gardening Season for an Endless Harvest; Southern Living Plant Collections; and Native Plants You Should Know. At our meetings, we also received reports from our grant recipients on how our grant funds contribute to the community and what we can do to assist in their efforts.
To further our own education, we sponsored Advanced Master Gardener Leadership Training, and introduced workshops to learn new skills . . . and have fun. We received inspiration for turning trash into garden treasures and we created stepping stones and planters. We learned how to use woodworking tools and power equipment to build birdhouses, and we got down and dirty working with hypertufa to make birdbaths. At our Photography Workshop we received tips on how to take the perfect picture and some of us even learned what the buttons on our cameras can do. Most recently we created beautiful wreaths and learned how to make living centerpieces and forever wreaths using dried flowers. All thanks to the volunteers who lead the workshops.
Educational field trips were both fun and enlightening. We visited the Johns Creek Environmental Center, attended the Southeastern Flower Show (at which many of you worked), toured Gibbs Gardens for Master Gardener Day, traveled to The Pocket at Pigeon Mountain to visit a wildflower nature preserve, toured Cox Arboretum and Ryan Ganey’s unique garden. On our most recent trip—in one day—we learned how our garden soil is tested at the UGA Soil Lab, visited the State Botanical Garden and gained knowledge about organic farming! We will conclude the year with a holiday tour of the Governor’s Mansion.
This year we continued some traditions including our Members Thank You Picnic, Photography Contest, Plant and Seed Exchange, and Weed and Feed events to assist members with their gardens when they are in need due to health issues.
After many months of preparation, we successfully launched our new website to better serve our members and provide information to the public. We documented officer and committee chair duties and procedures and posted them on the website to make leadership transition easier in the future.
Yes, it has been a busy year and we have accomplished a lot. I want to thank the Executive Committee, Committee Chairs, Fundraising Coordinators, Workshop Leaders, and each and every member for all you do for our organization and the community.
There is so much more to be done. Your unceasing support and contribution to this wonderful organization is needed for us to continue to grow and serve. Please extend your enthusiasm to the incoming officers and committee chairs for a wonderful 2014.
Thank you for your support this year. You made it happen!