On Thursday, June 10, a dedication ceremony was held to mark the donation, by The Amherst Garden Club to the Town of Amherst, of an inscribed natural granite bench and a pink dogwood (Cornus florida) tree at the intersection of Mack Hill, Dodge, and Jones Roads. This small historical park, the site of the Town’s first Meeting House, is along a popular walking route in the historic district, not far from the Town Green. It is hoped by the club that the tree and the bench will be welcoming for pedestrians and will draw attention to the historically significant site. The gift was made to commemorate the 50th anniversary year of the club’s founding in 1971.

In her remarks welcoming those in attendance (which was limited due to COVID-19), AGC Anniversary Chair Nancy Head noted that the first official meeting of the club was in February of 1971. She recalled that Amherst at the time had about half of today’s population and was a friendly, cooperative town where people readily shared their time and talents, and that those characteristics had carried over to the club and lasted to this day, saying “The town spirit runs through the garden club.  It is an organization that reflects the best characteristics of the town—the friendliness, sharing, and pulling together to make the town a better place for all.” As examples, Nancy cited the club’s volunteer and financial support for town projects such as a children’s camp at Peabody Mill Environmental Center, curbing at the Wigwam Museum, and scholarships for local students pursuing studies that relate to the club’s mission.

Following Nancy’s opening remarks, Becky Stoughton, Immediate Past President and Vice Chair of the Anniversary Committee, briefly recounted how the planning for the club’s anniversary began in earnest in the spring of 2017, with a brainstorming meeting and designating initial funding to mark the event, soon followed by a survey to obtain input from club members. She thanked Nancy for her work leading the committee saying, “I cannot overstate how much the club owes to Nancy for her dedication to the job, and my own and Kathy’s gratefulness to her for the many hours she has spent working with her committee to bring about a heart-warming and educational celebration in the midst of a pandemic.” Becky then introduced and thanked Christy Belvin, who chaired the subcommittee responsible for selecting and coordinating a legacy gift to the town to commemorate the anniversary in a suitable long-lasting way.

Christy mentioned that the subcommittee had evaluated numerous options for the gift, keeping in mind the goal of donating something “lasting” that was also “growing”, and thanked subcommittee members Anne Krantz, John Bement, and Edie Gambee along with Nancy and Kathy for all their efforts. She also thanked John Cochran of Amherst Garden Center, Adam Medlyn at Medlyn Monument, Jim and Ryan Sickler, Amherst Earth Products, Perry Day, and the Board of Selectmen. Christy then introduced current club President and Anniversary Committee Vice Chair Kathy Brundage.

Kathy observed that with the addition of the tree and bench, the area had the feel of a small “meetinghouse park”. She thanked Nancy, Becky, and Christy as well as the town itself for helping this to come about. She noted “As I stand here beside this newly-planted tree and granite bench, I am reminded of how the Amherst Garden Club had its beginnings in 1971 as a seedling of an idea that grew and took firm root in our community – and as it continued to grow and branch out, the club has been nurtured and supported by the community and come to blossom as we celebrate our golden anniversary.”

Kathy highlighted the close relationship between the club and the town, with the club financing and maintaining ten civic gardens, illuminating an annual Memory Tree, marching in the Fourth of July parade, providing scholarships, welcoming the community to attend its meetings and programs, and its annual Plant Sale. She went on to mention that, in return, the town supports the club in countless ways including allowing it to use the Stearns Road Fire Station to stage the Plant Sale. Kathy then formally presented the gift to Amherst Board of Selectmen Chairman Peter Lyon, wishing that it “bring joy, delight, and a shaded resting spot to all who pass by.” She offered the platform to Chairman Lyon, who formally accepted the gift on behalf of the Town, thanked the club for the gift, and noted the club’s important role in the town. He then read and presented to Kathy a Proclamation from the Board of Selectmen and the Town recognizing the anniversary and extending congratulations and gratitude to all past and present members of the club and best wishes for the club’s future success.