Garden club leaders encourage beautification of post-Katrina coast - - The News for South Mississippi

Garden club leaders encourage 'aesthetic beauty' along post-Katrina coast


By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They promote volunteerism, community gardens and green space. Garden club members from across Mississippi are on the coast for a statewide convention.

Renee Blaschke and Gay Austin stopped by the Bethel Free Clinic in Biloxi to check out the new "healing garden" that's under construction. We asked the two garden club leaders about the importance of beautification projects, like the flower gardens and oak tree sculptures along Highway 90.

"They are absolutely important to a community," said Renee Blascheke, the National Garden Clubs President. "One of our main objectives is to promote volunteerism and community service and to work with young people, as well as the older population."

"They're prideful. They enjoy what they see. They want people to enjoy the beauty of nature that's here for us," said Gay Austin, President of the Mississippi Garden Clubs. "It shows that welcome. I'm glad to be here and I'm glad you're here with us to enjoy the beauty that we provided."

As for the chainsaw-carved oak tree art, Austin likes it.

"I thought initially after Katrina, that was a perfect use of the trees that were taken from us.  And I have enjoyed them," she said.

It's no mistake the coast casinos invest heavily in landscaping and beautification efforts. They intend to make visitors feel welcome. As the old saying goes, you've only got one chance to make a first impression.

"It is a community with a population that is truly concerned about their surroundings," said Blaschke.

"Community gardens, conservation of areas that are green. Re-greening up things on the coast are all important to us right now as the planning stages are going for all that's going on along the coast," said Austin.

You may think only the senior population gets involved in garden clubs. But these leaders told us there's a real push to get younger volunteers involved with planting projects. They say it keeps them out of trouble and helps teach them to take pride in their community.

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