BUCKHANNON — The Fred Brooks Garden Club is best known for their local “Yard of the Month” designations, but Club President Beth Post joined Rotarians Tuesday afternoon to emphasize other projects they’re involved with around the community. According to Post, the club will be celebrating its 85th birthday next year.
Post noted that Upshur County is proudly home to two garden clubs—Fred Brooks Garden Club and the Stargazer Garden Club in Rock Cave. “Most people don’t know there is one garden club, much less two,” she joked. FBGC has recently created a new Facebook page, “The Fred Brooks Garden Club,” where a lot of useful information regarding gardening is shared. Individuals do not have to join the garden club to be a member of their Facebook page, Post specified.
Mentioning their most visible project within the community, Post explained that their “Yard of the Month” competition is broken down between the five zoning districts in Buckhannon and there is a judge for each district. The club also awards a “Business Yard of the Month” that is located within city limits. Members of FBGC started this project approximately 31 years ago, in 1990, she expressed. As most know, the club also selects a “Strawberry Yard of the Month” during the month of May, for the beloved West Virginia Strawberry Festival. In July of last year, they also started a new category for “Red, White and Blue Yard of the Month.” To keep things fair, individuals can only win every three years, Post noted.
Last year, one winner from Camden Ave. also had a vegetable patch in the backyard for their children. This was particularly memorable for Post, as she expressed how rewarding the program is to see families pass the tradition of gardening down to their children. When the young couple moved to Buckhannon and recognized the yard signs, the husband reportedly told his wife, “One of these days, we’re going to win that.” Post said she was elated to let him know their day had come when their yard was selected!
With major assistance from the city and county, the Fred Brooks Garden Club maintains the flower beds located at the Courthouse/Annex and the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department. They also maintain a Blue Star Marker at the Courthouse and on Elkins Road. The Blue Star Marker servers as a memorial to service members and only federated garden clubs can maintain them. The Blue Star Markers cost a few thousand dollars to purchase, according to Post.
The Stargazer Garden Club in Rock Cave also maintains a Blue Star Marker in that area. Post expressed that they’re hopeful to beautify the area around the markers, in addition to adding spotlights to make them more visible. The group also helps decorate the Christmas tree located at the Courthouse Plaza.
In addition, FBGC maintains their own Fred Brooks Park. The club, with help from the city, secured a Plant America grant that allowed them to add new benches and repair the roof on the pavilion. They’re hopeful to make some additions to the area in the near future—including ones that the deer won’t eat. Post jested, “Maybe call it the stop and browse deer buffet.” According to Post, finding plants deer like and don’t like is a huge topic amongst garden clubs.
Following a year in education herself, Post enjoys the youth education aspect of their club, although she said it has been complicated during the pandemic. The club is hoping to send an Upshur County student to Conservation Camp in Webster County next year, as the event cancelled the last two years, but they’re hopeful for next year. Post noted there were eight students interested two years ago, prior to its cancellation. Fred Brooks Garden Club is also looking to partner with an Upshur County elementary school to help maintain a youth pollinator project. Post noted that several schools in Upshur County have similar projects already in place.
Fred Brooks Garden Club also hosts garden therapy groups that are targeted for senior citizens and schools. These have been tricky during COVID, Post mentioned; however, they’re hoping to get back to places like Serenity Care and Holbrooks.
Post expressed that the club would not be able to do any of what they do without the support from the county and the city.
For the first time ever, the next National Garden Club Convention will be held in West Virginia, at the Greenbrier. Post emphasized that will be a great opportunity to showcase wild and wonderful West Virginia, as well as Fred Brooks Garden Club. “We are working really hard between now and then to make Fred Brooks and West Virginia proud,” she stated.
Part of why they chose West Virginia for this national convention, is because for the second time in history of the National Garden Club, a woman (Brenda Moore from Oakhill) from the Mountain State will be the National Garden Club President.
Fred Brooks Garden Club is named after famous botanist Fred Brooks. Brooks was born in French Creek, where his family was very involved with nature and photography. Brooks worked as an entomologist for the USDA, whom actually built him a lab in French Creek on his farm, Post noted. He was also known for his glass plate photography, which is on display at the historical society in downtown Buckhannon. There is also a hall at WVU, “Brooks Hall” named after the entire Brooks family for their contributions to nature and wildlife in West Virginia.
In other news of the Buckhannon-Upshur Rotary Club, they inducted newest member Cyril Johnston. Johnston expressed excitement for his new venture with the Rotary Club. While Johnston served in Afghanistan, he explained that Rotary was present and very involved, “helping in many, many ways.” Noticing this, Johnston felt called to join and expressed he is “so looking forward to getting to know everyone and working on various projects.” Johnston migrated from Ireland to the United States at the young age of 12 and noted that West Virginia “is home.”
Rotary will be present at the Children’s Festival on September 18. Club members will be giving out books and bookmarks to children as they drive through the festival.
In partnership with St. Joseph’s Hospital, the club will be assisting with the Vitalant blood drive scheduled for September 25. Social distancing and proper COVID protocols will be observed during the blood drive, located at The Event Center at Brushy Fork, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to Lisa Wharton, Rotary member and VP of Marketing, Public Relations & Foundation at St. Joseph’s Hospital. A food drive will also take place for the Parish House. Individuals are encouraged to drop off canned food, regardless of blood donation.