A misconception about the Millsap Neighborhood Home and Garden Club is that the members are gardeners, but the club’s president says that plants and flowers are not what’s growing among members.
“We say, the only thing we grow is friendship,” Club President Robbie Evans said.
In fact, Evans said she joined the club to learn how to garden after moving from the city to the country.
“I didn’t learn anything, I had to get on the internet,” Evans said, laughing.
The Millsap Neighborhood Home and Garden Club has developed into an organization that supports the community in more ways than one. The club started in 1978 by members who wanted to get to know and help their neighbors as well as improving themselves and their homes. As they do now, the members gathered on the first Wednesday of each month at the community center.
Previous members used to have gatherings in May to view the flowers that members planted in their yards, but that doesn’t happen anymore, member Jo Ann Barnhart said.
“We’ve had some people say, ‘We’d join, but I don’t garden,’” Barnhart said. “Well, we don’t either.”
The club has hosted many community activities, such as last fall’s turkey dinner, as well as cooked bereavement meals or visited those shut-in at their homes. They have also raised scholarship funds for Millsap High School seniors, which amounts to more than $20,000 in total.
These scholarships can be an avenue for some students to get to college or trade schools who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, Evans said.
“We don’t want them all to be A+, straight As because we want some of the other kids that would not get to go to college at all if they didn’t have some help,” Evans said.
Millsap ISD Superintendent Deann Lee described the club members as “selfless servants” who support the school district and beyond.
“The Millsap community is blessed with the hardest working and most giving group of women I have ever known,” Lee said. “They spend the entire year raising funds for MHS student scholarships through bake sales, dinners and other activities. In the meantime, they send cards, visit shut-ins, provide school supplies, bring MISD staff meals, work in the city-wide clean-up day, conduct the community Thanksgiving dinner and on and on. They also have a lot of fun. These are selfless servants who quickly respond to any need, and I’m privileged to be associated with them.”
The club’s membership has grown over time and is close to 50 members now, Vice President Dianna French said.
“It seems like every month or so we get another new person come in,” French said.
Members described the club as a go-to group for helping with community causes. French said club members are willing to donate money to support the community or people in need.
“If somebody passes in the community and they don’t have a church, they’ll come to the garden club, they’ll contact us and we’ll help with food,” French said. “They’ll call us if there’s kids at school who don’t have shoes or coats or something.”
The group is trusted in the community to use donations properly, Evans said.
“The people that come here and join know that we’re going to use the money for what we say we’re going to use it for,” Evans said.
A challenge for the group is that older members can’t always participate in activities, Evans said.
“As we all get older, we can do less, so for a while there we were in a pickle because a lot of our older women can’t go and sell donuts and coffee and cookies at the bake sale,” Evans said. “If we get to a point where we don’t have any younger people, it’s very hard to accomplish all these things, but we’ve been fortunate in the last two years, we’ve added a lot of younger members, and that helps because we hope they’ll carry it on for us when we’re all gone.”
However, Barnhart said sometimes younger members can’t always participate in the club’s midday meetings because of work obligations.
“We need the young people, but what happens is kids, grandkids, when we have something special, they pitch in and help us,” Barnhart said.
Meetings include a program, which can be a speaker, skits or poetry readings, Barnhart said. Meetings are at 11:30 a.m. every first Wednesday of the month.
“Every month is something different, and I think that’s an attraction that people like,” Barnhart said.
Members talk about causes to be involved with and upcoming events at meetings, French said.
Members should visit the club a few times to see if it’s a fit for them before joining, Evans said. Dues are $15 per year.
Evans said a reason to join the club is because it allows people to get to know their community and get involved.
To find out more about the club, visit the Millsap Neighborhood Home and Garden Facebook page.