The OFallon Garden Club is receiving the 2014 Spirit of the Chamber Award for the significant contributions its members have made to the betterment of the community.
Organized in 2010, the Club has grown from a gathering of a few friends and neighbors who set out with a goal of sprucing up a new park to become an organization with nearly 70 avid gardeners who are out to beautify the whole city and to spread the word that planting vegetables, flowers and trees not only beautifies but also is good for the environment and enhances the welfare of OFallon.
I cant tell you how thrilled we are. And we are so touched that they (the Chamber) noticed and thought we were deserving of the award, Club President Sarah Lambaria said.
We do what we do because love gardening and giving back to the community, she said. To us, it is fun to get out and weed or to start in on new projects.
When the founding members initially approached the city fathers with their idea for a garden club, the project they proposed was to brighten the newly built OFallon Sports Park with landscaping and colorful flower beds. Then, with the help of Parks and Grounds Superintendent Calvin Beckmann, the club took a neglected piece of city property on the corner of State and Smiley streets and turned it into a productive Community
Garden that today has 25 planting beds made available to residents including those with disabilities wanting to cultivate their own gardens, as well as landscaping beds to attract butterflies and humming birds.
Club members also maintain plots at the Community Garden where they grow more than 2,800 pounds of fresh produce each summer for the OFallon Food Pantry.
To turn a former trailer park into a garden that feeds the Food Pantry and also beautifies the town, while educating kids and the community, has been one of the best things, Lambaria said.
The Garden Club members now have spread throughout the city to apply their green thumbs to care for planters in front of downtown businesses, flower beds in the centers of the citys four roundabouts and all of the boulevard planting beds at the Sports Park.
Gardener Jim Harper received national recognition in December 2013 when he received a Daily Point of Light Award for the work he other Club members have done through gardening to teach important life skills to special needs students in OFallon Township High Schools Route 21
Transition Program, which is designed to help those students learn the skills they will need to transition into the real world on their 22nd birthday. Harper had the bright idea students participating in the transition program could benefit from gardening so he spearheaded a project that brought the students to the Community Garden to cultivate a plot that yielded an abundance of fresh produce. The bounty was taken to the
Transition House kitchen, where the students learned about preparing vegetables for freezing and for consumption.
For the past two years, the Club has been soliciting donations to acquire bulbs for planting on berms surrounding the OFallon Veterans Monument. More than 6,600 daffodils and muscari are now in the ground and ready to bloom soon as a tribute to OFallons military members past, present and future.
The project earned recognition from the National Council of State Garden Clubs, which gave to the city its Blue Star Memorial By-Way Marker.
The marker was unveiled at the Veterans Monument on April 5 as another tribute to the citys veterans.
As for the future, the Club has its eyes on city property near the Sports Park where it wants to develop another community garden. And it would like to spread its colorful cultivating to other city parks.
The Clubs monthly meetings feature programs intended to help amateurs cultivate their own green thumbs, with discussions about almost every aspect of horticulture. Next on the agenda is the Clubs annual Arbor Day Celebration, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at the Community Garden.
The public is invited to learn all about trees through demonstrations and discussions with Master Gardeners. Free seedlings donated by local businesses also will be handed out.
The Club also carries out weekly work days at the Community Garden from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Thursdays during which volunteers may help with clean-up, planting, weeding, mowing, composting and fertilizing. For more information about the Club, check out its web site at