Garden Club gathers for fundraising, festivities


The Harbor Island Garden Club renewed its annual tradition of fundraising and merrymaking on Friday, Dec. 11 when its luncheon and silent auction at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort drew more than 80 attendees.

The club’s biggest fundraiser helps raise money for the beautification projects that occupy the members’ time throughout the year. But on this afternoon, the members spent their time mingling through the silent auction room and bonding with their fellow members.

“All of the proceeds go back into beautification of Wrightsville Beach,” said club president Melynda McNeil, who is in her first year of a two-year term. “We put the money back into these projects so that people can enjoy them.”

The club’s contribution to beautification begins with the Harbor Way Garden, located on the west end of Wrightsville Beach Park. The club maintains the lush grounds around the 36,400-square-foot garden that includes the Children’s Fountain, which uses collected rain for its water supply. The club also works to beautify the three parks on South Harbor Island.

Their beautification projects also include uplighting trees throughout the town, and hanging the mermaids that adorn light poles during the Christmas season and the wreaths distributed in locations around town, including at the post office and on the bridge tender’s tower of the Heide Trask Drawbridge.

The club sponsors the Junior Garden Club at the Wrightsville Beach Elementary School, which provides the flowers and boutineers for the students upon graduation. They also organize a field trip to Airlie Gardens for the students.

2014’s auction was a banner year for the club, but mainly because a substantial donation of furniture by the Blockade Runner bumped up the total, which was estimated to be about $17,000.

The garden club has been a Wrightsville Beach institution since 1952. McNeil said it was the garden club that helped create the inviting foliage that makes the town attractive for so many.

“All of these trees weren’t here,” McNeil said. “It was just sand and sand spurs.”

The garden club currently has 62 members, 45 of whom are active. The club has an exclusive membership, as they must either live on the island or have a family member in the group. The holiday luncheon is a popular event with members because it is one of the few events where members can invite friends.

The club is also preparing to host the district 11 meeting of the state’s federated garden club next October, inviting members of garden clubs from Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Duplin, Greene, James, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Sampson and Wayne counties to visit Wrightsville Beach.

Former president Elise Running said the job keeps both the president and the volunteers busy.

“There’s something to do every day,” she said.

Members donated all of the items for the auction, including crafts, baked goods and art. While those items were bid on through the silent auction format, the luncheon concludes with a live auction during which club members bid on more exclusive items, like weekend stays at vacation homes.

“The live auction is fun,” said member Patti Jacarusso, who helped set up the side room where the auction items were stored. While arranging the auction room, Jacarusso said it was important to create a festive vibe for the displays.

“You’ve got to get a flow,” Jacarusso said. “You need to make it so they keep walking. It needs to be inviting.”

One popular item was the holiday cake from Nancy Haerne, which had at least seven bids and was up to $60.

Pam Carroll, one of the club members, had special reasons to bid on the bracelet that she won for $30. It included the name of her brother, Jay Miller, who died of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The bracelet was originally made for the Circle of Friends fundraiser Carroll helps organize to raise money for ALS research while honoring her late brother.

“It’s very meaningful,” said Carroll of the bracelet. Being able to bid on the item during the luncheon emphasized the value the club’s membership offers to her.

“Everything is all connected,” Carroll said. “This club is like family, they’re amazing.”

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