Altamonte Springs boasts one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in town - Spring Valley - and its upkeep is all thanks to The Spring Valley Garden Club, which recently celebrated 50 years of community, friendship, and philanthropy.
They don’t have a mission statement, per se... “The club started before they did things like that,” laughs Pat Green, current president of the Spring Valley Garden Club. “It’s mostly to enhance friendships in our neighborhood, and it focuses on horticulture.”
The Spring Valley Garden Club was organized on November 20, 1968, in what is still today one of the most prestigious and stately neighborhoods in Altamonte Springs. Over the years, the club has taken responsibility for decorating Spring Valley’s front gates and adorning its lampposts, trees, and street signs at Christmastime. Club members also offer nature-related programs for neighborhood children, plant annuals at the front entrance, and take care of the neighborhood’s own private park and its landscaping and trees.
The group, which consists of about 30 members, meets monthly from September to May, a schedule consistent with the club’s early days when the members took summers off. While it began with a group of mostly stay-at-home moms, the Garden Club’s membership has expanded to men and women of all ages. Dues are minor and cover the club’s association with relevant state and national garden clubs.
“With 448 homes, Spring Valley has a beautiful mix of ethnic backgrounds and ages,” says Pat. “The neighborhood exudes a family vibe. A number of families have grown children who have also purchased homes of their own and reside here, as well.”
Fifty years ago, the club’s inaugural social committee hosted a dinner/dance fundraiser, which became an annual event. In 1968, the funds were used to refurbish the neighborhood recreation area.
“We used to have dinner dances every spring,” recalls Jan. “It was really fancy. People wore corsages.”
The club is known for organizing a Christmas home decorating contest and, for a number of years, it hosted a memorable Christmas walk-through.
“The Garden Club members helped decorate the homes, and all the neighbors were invited to come walk through them,” says Jan. “It was quite a nice project that highlighted the uniqueness of the homes, many of which are distinctive.”
To this day, the Garden Club supports the community through its philanthropic efforts.
“Every year, we try to do something for the neighborhood,” says Jan, who has been a member for more than three decades. Last year, the club held a fundraiser to replace trees that were lost during Hurricane Irma. Garden Club members purchased, planted, and watered the trees (an arduous process in the Florida heat).
The club also supports local food banks by donating pounds and pounds of two critical staples: peanut butter and crackers. Members are asked to bring their favorite kind of peanut butter to the club’s November and December meetings.
“Each member brings a big jar of their favorite peanut butter – you know, some like chunky, and some don’t,” laughs Jan.
Members also put on lessons in flower arranging and host speakers on topics such as wildflowers, insects, or anything garden-related. Once, the club spearheaded a project to plant purple martins around Spring Lake to help control the mosquito population. A litter committee helped clean the lake’s shoreline for many years, and luminaries and flag displays were also common sights.
Each year, the club hosts a drawing competition to choose the artwork for the cover of its annual membership booklet.
“This year, the artwork features an orchid drawn by a grandchild of one of our members,” says Jan.
The Garden Club’s most popular event is its annual plant show, which began in 1972.
In such a longstanding group, two members have been around since the beginning. Betty Shea has attended on and off for all 50 years. She served as the club’s treasurer during its first year. And Shirley Waggoner has been a consistent member since the club became federated.
It’s the camaraderie that sustains the group, even after 50 years.
“The members in the Garden Club are wonderful,” says Jan. “We’re friends, and we take care of each other. If someone needs help, or falls ill, we call, check in, see if we can bring them groceries or dinner, or offer someone a ride.”
Many members grow flowers or fruits and veggies in their personal gardens. It’s not unusual to see someone toting a basket of limes or blueberries to share at a meeting.
To celebrate the club’s major milestone, the group dined out together in December.
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“We almost never leave the neighborhood,” says Jan, “so this time we went out to a real restaurant. It’s been a wonderful group to be associated with.”