50 years of gardening: Bloomingdale Garden Club celebrates half century anniversary

Published: Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 1:50 p.m. CDT

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BLOOMINDGDALE – The Bloomingdale Garden Club recently celebrated its half century anniversary, a feat few other clubs in the village have achieved.

The organization celebrated its 50-year milestone last Saturday at the Bloomingdale Golf Club.

President Joyce Basel points to the organization’s history to identify why and how it has remained a fixture in Bloomingdale for five long decades.

The club was founded in 1963 by eight avid gardeners, Basel said.

“It was really very simple,” she said. “They wanted to form a garden club, not only to share their own interests and expertise with each other, but with the community as well.”

Doing good for the community has remained a cornerstone of the club’s mission throughout the years. At its inception, the club began beautifying neighborhoods and common areas, including gardens at the village hall, Basel said.

Since the 1980s, the club has held an annual plant sale, the proceeds from which have been donated to local and international charities, including food pantries and scholarships for students entering the horticulture field, among other philanthropic causes.

And if any plants are left over after the sale, Basel said they are always used “wherever we can help beautify,” at the police department, fire department, library or other areas in the village.

“They’ve done a great deal of beautification work in a variety of our parks,” said Park District Executive Director Carrie Fullerton.

Fullerton said the district has partnered with the garden club to host the annual plant sale.

Recently, the district agreed to allow the organization to install a garden of remembrance in Old Town Park in memory of garden club members who have died, Fullerton said. Basel, president of the club for eight years, said she has long desired such a memorial in the village.

“I think one of the reasons they have existed for so long is that they have incredibly dedicated members who have stuck with the club for a long time,” Fullerton said.

The club’s 54 members range from twenty-somethings to 95-year-olds, Basel said.

Four men are also counted among the membership, which Basel said is unusual for a garden club.

One particularly ambitious member, Linda Kunesh, a master gardener who joined the club in 2007, applied for a nearly $11,000 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to fund the creation of a new, wheelchair accessible therapeutic garden at the DuPage Convalescent Center and to improve the facility’s existing gardens.

Kunesh said 15 garden club members have volunteered during the past two years to plant 1,000 flowers at the center.

“Residents just come out there and just sit in the middle of this beautiful garden and take in the sights,” Kunesh said. “It’s just a very peaceful, beautiful, serene area.”

In addition to its philanthropic work, the club also hosts a monthly speaker to educate members about topics such as perennials, beekeeping and even owls, Basel said.

She said even nonresidents attend these events, which are open to the public.

New speakers and education programs have kept the club fresh over the years, something that Kunesh said has resulted in its vitality and longevity.

“It continues to change as its membership changes,” she said. “We don’t get stuck just because we did something for 25 years.”

Still, Kunesh said, giving back to the community has remained at the core of the club’s identity for its entire history.

“The one thing that has remained is it continues to be a very philanthropic garden club.”

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