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Beautifying Coupeville for half a century
As the ancient proverb goes, bread may feed the body but it’s flowers that feed the soul.
If the age-old adage has you nodding your head in agreement, you may just owe the Coupeville Garden Club a small debt of gratitude. Last month the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary, a milestone marking a half century of dirty hands, sore backs, and a whole lot of smiles.
“There aren’t any better people in the world than gardeners,” said club member Beverley Walton, with a laugh.
While Walton was just joking, sort of, many are inclined to agree that the garden club is one of the best civic groups around. According to Coupeville Town Councilman Bob Clay, the flower barrels that decorate North and South Main streets every summer are a large part of what makes Coupeville such a lovely place to live or visit.
“It gives the town a certain character,” Clay said. “We’d be a lot less without them.”
The garden club has a history as colorful and as esteemed as its flower barrels. Following its first meeting in March of 1961 at the old Island County Courthouse, the group’s first project was a beautification of the West Coast Telephone building on the corner of North Main and Coveland streets.
The club would spend the next decade planting the banks of Front Street, putting in gardens at City Park and the courthouse, beautifying the old fire house and providing landscaping for the hospital and museum.
According to club historical documents, those early efforts were recognized by “Horticulture” magazine in 1964, earned it the Richfield Award for Town Beautification in 1965 and the Sears Award in 1969, 1975 and 1979.
Some of the club’s earliest members include women such as Hazel Barrett, Lottie Lindsay, Joyce Maddie, Roberta Lee and Jimmie Jean Cook. Sadly, none of those first pioneers are still alive today, but the club continues to thrive, President Gordon Burton said.
From the 28 people at that attended that first meeting 50 years ago, membership has grown to 67 people. And they are just as active as ever, gathering every Tuesday at the club’s greenhouse behind Coupeville High School to take care of the thousands of plants that are sold each year at the club’s annual sale.
The massive event is the organization’s sole fundraiser, usually seeing the sale of about 4,000 plants. According to Burton, 100 percent of the proceeds go right back into the community, from purchasing and raising the flowers that go into the flower barrels to contributing to school scholarship programs and Island County 4-H.
The organization has a close partnership with the school district. Along with the greenhouse, club members regularly volunteer their time and expertise to the elementary school’s garden club. Burton said the primary purpose is to help students see the magic of planting something and watching it grow, but there is always the chance of another pay off as well.
“Maybe we’ll get some new members of the garden club,” Burton said.
While the group’s contribution to the town is widely recognized, club members aren’t in it for a pat on the back. Rather it’s a link to community, said Peggy Burton, a longtime volunteer. It’s a chance to meet and be with like minded people while practicing a craft you love, she said.
“That kind of thing makes me come back time and again,” Peggy Burton said.