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Garden club celebrates 70 years of making Turlock beautiful
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For 70 years, the Turlock Garden Club has ensured downtown’s street corners catch the eyes of passers-by with their vivid flowers. PICTURED ABOVE: Kathy Tucker, Soni Hill, Carol McRoberts, Holli Walker, Judy Green and Bernie Semore of the Turlock Garden Club pose for a picture before planting flowers for their downtown beautification project in April 2016 (Journal file photo).

For 70 years, the Turlock Garden Club has ensured downtown’s street corners catch the eyes of passers-by with their vivid flowers. They have turned the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds into a must-see event for garden lovers throughout the region, and they have tended to plants at community havens like the Carnegie Arts Center and Jessica’s House. Countless organizations have benefitted from their generosity, and the group has grown immensely from its small beginnings in 1948.

These milestones and more were celebrated at the Turlock Garden Club’s 70th Anniversary Lilac Luncheon on Monday, bringing together both past and present members to reflect on just how much the club has meant to Turlock over the years.

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The Turlock Garden Club’s 70 year anniversary luncheon, held Monday, hosted past presidents (from left to right) Jo Ann Olsen, Debbie Brereton, Carol McRoberts, Mary Doniack and Marge Screen as well as current president Holli Walker (seated).

The club was founded by Gerald James on July 29, 1948, and in the early days of the organization, the group of 12 to 15 members would meet at different members’ homes. Seventy years later there are over 100 members in the club, who now meet in the Turlock Senior Center.

“We are a group of fun-loving people, and each month from September to June we meet, have lunch and learn something new from a great speaker,” President Holli Walker said.

The club often gives back to the community, with arguably their most well-known volunteer project being the planter pots in downtown Turlock.

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Stephanie Telles and Cate Pyle hosted a table for City Council member Gil Esquer, Rosa Esquer, Mayor Gary Soiseth and Jay DeGraff from The Greenery Nursery at the Turlock Garden Club’s 70th Anniversary Lilac Luncheon.

Wearing green aprons and gardening gloves, club members plant downtown flowers in the area’s 40 pots twice a year — once in the spring and once in the fall. Volunteers work on the pots once a month year-long to maintain the flowers, cleaning up any spent blooms and trimming excess plants down.

In addition to the downtown planters, the Turlock Garden Club also decorates and plants the pond area and a competition garden area at the fair, tends to flowers at Jessica’s House and the Carnegie and has also donated money for the Turlock Gospel Mission landscaping. Students benefit from the club as well, added Walker.

“Currently in our budget is over $3,000 we will donate to local projects that meet our mission statement goals,” she said. “We are also offering eight $1,000 scholarships to local high school and continuing college kids that are studying agriculture, floriculture, horticulture or environmental studies.”

In recent years, the club has tried reaching out to the community, past-president Carol McRoberts said, hosting an Annual Garden Tour and handing out applications for the club at the Turlock Certified Farmers Market.

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Turlock Garden Club members Bonnie Donaldson, Susan Cmapbell, Mary Sweet and Lynda DeGraff dressed in their best ‘40s attire for the occasion.

“I started to notice that a lot of residents in Turlock didn’t know the Turlock Garden Club exists,” McRoberts said.

Money raised from the garden tour is used for scholarships, and in 2013 the first event made a profit of $5,117. The club recently completed its sixth Garden Tour, which brought in nearly $13,000.

“Now that’s a club that worked together as a team,” McRoberts said.

The club’s next Garden Tour is scheduled for April 27, 2019, with tickets going on sale in March 2019. The Turlock Garden Club is always open to new members, Walker said, and the group meets the second Monday of every month at noon in the Turlock Senior Center, 1191 Cahill St.