The Hillsdale Garden Club will hold its 90th-anniversary celebration in Hillsdale College’s Markel Auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m.
The free event is open to the public and will feature guest speaker Jan Bills from Two Women and a Hoe® and speeches about the history of the club from three members. Following the program, there will be a meet and greet reception with Bills and a book-signing for her work “Late Bloomer: How to Garden with Comfort, Ease and Simplicity in the Second Half of Life.”
The club chose Bills as a speaker because she is a professional landscape and garden consultant who some members previously have heard speak. Peggy Lopresto, the president of the Garden Club, said Bills “takes a different look at gardening” and is a “very funny and exciting” speaker.
“Jan Bills’ name came up in a committee when they were deciding what to do for the celebration,” Lopresto said. “We chose her because some members were familiar with her, and she speaks for everyone. She talks about everything. She keeps you intrigued.”
During the event, club members Louise Worms, Connie Brumbaugh, and Sally Fallon will also talk about the history of the club and its annual green sale.
Sue Cervini, the chairwoman of the 90th-anniversary event, said the Garden Club “all started with the Stocks and Mrs. Stocks’ park.”
The Hillsdale Garden Club was founded by Emma Koon Stock, the daughter-in-law of Wilhelmina Stock who founded “Mrs. Stock’s Park.” Emma Stock eventually took over the park that her mother-in-law started and founded the Garden Club in 1929.
After the Stock family sold their mill to General Mills and deeded the park to the City of Hillsdale in 1959, the land was not cared for. In 2003, Hillsdale resident and Garden Club member Mary Anne MacRitchie headed a committee to restore the park.
“Mary Anne had lived a lot of her life in Hillsdale and was distressed to see that the park was going by the wayside,” Worms said. “She wanted it to be a beautiful place, a place for recreation for the community.”
To this day, the Garden Club annually donates funds towards the maintenance of the park. Additionally, several Garden Club members are involved in the Stocks’ Committee — or “the friends of Mrs. Stocks Park” as they call themselves — that voluntarily maintains the park greenery every Thursday morning of the summer. They also organize events such as concerts in the park.
In addition to maintaining Mrs. Stock’s Park, the club also holds gardening field trips, works with fourth graders from Gier Elementary in what they call a “junior garden club,” decorates the city’s public areas with greenery and flowers, and is a member of statewide, regional, and national garden clubs.
In order to raise the money for these projects and events, the club holds an annual “green sale” that is like the Christmas-decor version of a girl scout cookie sale. What started out as a few women selling 12 wreaths at a card table in front of Kroger in 1997 has now become a full-time operation.
Starting on Tuesday, Sept. 3, the members divided folders of order forms among themselves and then went out to gather orders over the following six weeks. The ladies sell different sized wreaths, table arrangements, bows, baskets, and anything else that denotes the holiday season.
Throughout the fall, the club members have parties at one other’s houses in which they prepare the bows, candle arrangements, and anything else that they can make in advance. The ladies then store the materials until Christmas time.
On the first Monday after Thanksgiving, the entire club arranges the accessories with fresh greenery from Hillsdale County and wreaths brought in from Detroit, Michigan. The ladies then deliver the festive decor around town that night and the following morning.
Brumbaugh, who led the green sale for 15 years, said the sale “has evolved into quite an operation” that everyone in the club is involved with.
Brumbaugh said that when she first took over the chairmanship of the sale, it was just her and one other woman creating the arrangements the whole night before they had to be delivered.
“When I think back to that first night when somebody called and asked me to take over, and it was just two of us working all night, to the place where it has gotten now, it’s just tremendous,” Brumbaugh said.
“We have people that ask ‘how do you do all this?’” Brumbaugh added. “The secret is that we’ve got a really hard working club. It’s a work club. It’s not just to dress up and hear somebody talk.”