Garden Club members, from left, Sheila Etchen, Debbie Mayfield, Ann Showman, DBP Chairwoman Melissa Juberg and Lanann Tuttle. [ Terri Hayes | Contributed ]
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Volunteers, donors pitch in for downtown beautification

For locals and tourists alike, it is springtime in Port St. Joe and the garden club volunteers are again hard at work on Reid Avenue. They prune, fertilize, weed and dig, and plant beautiful spring flowers, just in time for Easter. 

The Downtown Beautification Project, a committee within the garden club, plants 15 garden beds during fall and spring downtown each year. The DBP has been going strong since November 2021 and plans well in advance to design the beds, order plants and organize both garden club and community volunteers for planting events. 

It is an extensive team effort and is appreciated so much by everyone that happens by as we plant. As people drive or stroll by on planting days, they genuinely appreciate the beauty these beds bring to our area. That smile is why we do it.

Many people ask what plants are being planted and the club members educate them about which flowers are being used in the beds and why. Education is an important part of our mission statement. Service to our community makes this such a worthwhile project and garden club members genuinely enjoy participating. 

I am so proud of the level of dedication of our team going into our third year, which includes Leesa Haire, the garden club president and downtown beautification visionary, and grant writers like Leelee Doughty, and those that put in sweat equity to transport the plants and get them in the ground.

It takes a caravan of seven trucks and SUVs to transport the plants. Members planted for three days this past week, 22 volunteers total, many of them planting all three days. We also have groups that come out and weed and prune on their own time to keep the beds looking amazing. 

The DBP received grants from The George G. and Amelia G. Tapper Foundation and Duke Energy and generous donations from Capital City Bank, Centennial Bank, and the Junior Service League, which funded the project. We are so grateful to these companies and organizations. The committee planned for about seven months, getting necessary permission from our city commissioners (as they are city-owned garden beds) and the garden club to move forward with our first planting in late spring of 2022. The city assisted us with getting the irrigation working in each bed. The overwhelming support of our club and community made it possible to continue in the fall of that year and spurred many to keep the improvements going.

Planters of flowers outside of local businesses showed up to welcome those strolling through town. The DBP added benches to some of the corners. Our merchants started to talk about more lighting on Reid and Joe Whitmer, director of the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce, guided that project. The colorful directional signs were commissioned by the chamber, which I as a local artist created.

Everyone really started to pitch in and wanted to see more continued improvements, which was exciting. There has always been a wonderful sense of community here, but I feel it even more so since this beautification began. It shows that one person can have a simple idea to make things better, that can take hold of a group of people, who have a variety of talents, and it can turn into something pretty great.

Special thanks to our garden club board for the support, and the club members who show up and work hard with a smile. There are too many to name, but you know who you are.

Melissa Juberg is the chairwoman of the Downtown Beautification Project committee of the Port St. Joe Garden Club.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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