How the effort to buy a bench turned into a scholarship fund


It’s curious how the efforts to do one thing can lead to another.

That’s what happened years ago when the Port Washington Garden Club decided to raise money to buy a park bench but ended up with a scholarship fund.

I was one of several new members of the Port Garden Club when the marina in downtown Port was reconfigured.

The result was Rotary Park, and it was suggested that the club buy a bench to put there. But the Garden Club had never had much money, so we decided to have a plant sale fundraiser.

It was late in the season and we didn’t make enough money for a bench.

We thought a garden tour might get us there, so the following summer, club members opened their gardens.

My husband printed 100, $5 tickets and we crossed our fingers.

To our surprise, he continued to print tickets all day long.

By the end of the afternoon, the plastic Tupperware box on our kitchen table held more than $1,000.

As members arrived for the post-tour picnic in our back yard, more coffee cans and containers of money arrived.

Over the years, the plant sale and Garden Walk have continued to be lucrative fundraisers.

That enabled the Port Garden Club to donate funds to the Niederkorn Library for retaining walls and pay for landscaping at Rotary Park.

Thousands of daffodils were planted around the city, too. But when disagreements arose with the city over the maintenance of those projects, the club changed direction and began to invest in a scholarship fund.

The Garden Club has been awarding scholarships to students in horticulture and related topics at MATC and the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2009.

We’ve had a lot of help along the way. Port Washington State Bank matched the club’s fundraising to get to the minimum amount necessary to open an account at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

The club’s events have also received generous coverage from Ozaukee Press.

And the Port Washington community has embraced our events.

To all of the gardeners who have attended the club’s Garden Walks, have volunteered their gardens for touring or shopped at the plant sale, the Garden Club thanks you for your support.

The club’s members would like you all to know your support has grown the scholarship fund so much that the endowment will top $100,000 this year, making it self-sustaining.

This year the location of the plant sale has changed  —it’s on West Grand Avenue across from my house — and so have the offerings.

There are some perennials, but many more annuals, including dahlias and vegetables.

There are also green-roofed bird houses and platform feeders so shoppers can see the kinds of projects the club offers at its winter seminar.

(The next one is Feb. 23, 2019).

There are also house plants, tabletop succulent gardens, hypertufa containers and garden ornaments.

The Garden Club never did buy a bench for the park.

But I don’t think the park has missed it.

Instead the club has shown the public what a great place Port Washington is, uncovered some hidden neighborhoods and showcased some exceptional gardens and gardeners.

And with your continued support, we’ll keep right on growing.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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