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GCA President Marian Hill speaks at Groundbreaking Ceremony. Photo courtesy of Cutty McGill.
Members gather on site. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Pinckney.
Swaths of Narcissus 'Garden Club of America' bloom in Central Park. Photo courtesy of Natasha Hopkinson/
The GCA 2013 Founders Fund gift. Photo courtesy of Cutty McGill.
Skyview of Central Park, New York City
Narcissus 'Garden Club of America'
The 2013 Founders Fund Award
The GCA Founders Fund
Established in 1934, the Founders Fund is one of the Garden Club of America’s most effective outreach efforts. Unique among GCA’s philanthropy, the Founders Fund Award is the only award for which every individual club member votes. Garden clubs from throughout the U.S. submit local community improvement projects each year for Founders Fund award consideration. Proposals are reviewed and voted on by Founders Fund Committee members and three finalists are selected for membership vote.
The award recipient is announced at GCA's Annual Meeting and receives $25,000; each runner-up receives $7,500.
Winners have ranged from a garden project in a women’s prison (proposed by the Garden Club of Honolulu) to an arboretum designed to showcase trees resistant to local invasive insects (proposed by the Worcester Garden Club) and an urban vegetable garden created for neighborhood families (Wilmington Garden Club).
In the Beginning
In 2005, and in anticipation of GCA’s 100-year anniversary in 2013, GCA leadership suggested a larger than usual Founders Fund award to restore an area of Central Park in New York City. As New York has been the home of GCA headquarters for 90 years, it was thought appropriate that the Centennial Founders Fund Award would constitute a lasting tribute to GCA’s rich and accomplished history.
At the inception of the gift idea, GCA partnered with the Central Park Conservancy to choose two potential areas within the park for Founders Fund award nomination. To remain consistent with the selection process, clubs voted on their choice of project. The clubs selected the final site, known as the East 69th Street Entrance Area, and the winner was announced at the 2008 GCA Annual Meeting in Norfolk, VA.
The Central Park Conservancy
The CPC was founded in 1980 by a group of dedicated civic and philanthropic leaders determined to end Central Park’s decline and restore the park to its former splendor as envisioned by its 19th century designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Today, the Conservancy’s mission is to restore, manage and enhance Central Park, in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future generations in America’s first and foremost major urban public space. The Conservancy has transformed the park into a model for urban spaces worldwide.
Along the Way
On October 5, 2011, members of GCA clubs around the country gathered to celebrate the start of the renovation. Joining GCA President Marian Hill at the Groundbreaking Ceremony were NYC Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, CPC President Doug Blonsky, 2013 Centennial Committee Chairman Ray Thompson and the GCA/CPC Liaison, Natasha Hopkinson.
In-house designers at the CPC developed the renovation plan to recreate the picturesque woodland edge of the park as it opens onto the pastoral East Green. A changing palette of plant material offers four-season interest, reflecting the vision of Olmstead and Vaux. New plants are compatible with existing specimens, underground channels protect adjacent areas from flooding, and new pipes have been added to allow for hand-watering as necessary.
Visitors arriving in the park at the 69th Street entrance may pause and sit on new Victorian-designed benches, admire the surrounding woodland environment, breathe the magic of nature, and view the impressive sight of 10,000 'Garden Club of America' spring-blooming daffodils planted in brilliant swaths throughout the site’s two acres. Narcissus ‘Garden Club of America’ is registered with the Royal Horticultural Society and distributed by Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia. Mayor Bloomberg has made daffodils the official flower of New York City.
The GCA Centennial Dedication
On June 3, 2013, GCA club members and their guests will gather with pride to celebrate the completion of the project. This historic gift, made possible by the 2013 Founders Fund Award and supported by all 200 member clubs, will be officially dedicated by speakers from the Garden Club of America and the Central Park Conservancy. Natasha Hopkinson, GCA/CPC liaison, reminds us that we have participated in keeping alive Frederick Law Olmsted’s dream for the 'elevation of mankind through contact with nature', a fitting tribute indeed to the 100-year efforts and achievements of the Garden Club of America!