Friends of Leach Garden celebrate 30th anniversary

Find out why – if it weren’t for this dedicated group of volunteers – this outer East Portland treasure might well have become a YMCA Camp. And, look at the fun they offered at their annual Holiday Bazaar and Artist Market …

Both longtime and new members of Leach Garden Friends come together, as they celebrate their organization’s 30th anniversary.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In stories and photos, lovers of things botanical met on November 20 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of “Leach Garden Friends” in the meeting room at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in the Mill Park Neighborhood.

During the afternoon meeting, Gay Greger, President of Leach Garden Friends, thanked members – individually and collectively – for all they’ve done over the years.

Leach Garden Friends President Gay Greger applauds the strides made, as they look forward to a bright future for the garden.

“The stage is set for the next exciting chapter in the story of Leach Botanical Garden. We know that we are standing on the very broad shoulders of those who came before, as we shape the Garden’s next thirty years. It is a very exciting time for us.”

Greger continued, “Thanks to you for so many of the good things that have happened. And, they’ve happened due to the friends of Leach Garden – all of our volunteers!”

Volunteers Heidi Gambee and Janne McLain get set to distribute sparkling apple cider for the event’s toast.

David Porter, Executive Director of Leach Botanical Garden, presents the compelling story of John and Lilla Leach – and how this garden came to be.

All of the attendees raise a glass to toast to the past – and the future – of Leach Botanical Garden, and to the volunteer group that continues to help it operate and improve.

“Nearly 100 people came to celebrate this important milestone,” Greger later told East Portland News. “We honored all the people who have served on the nonprofit’s board since 1981.”

But the big news revealed at the event was not only about their past, Greger added. “Leach Garden Friends’ eyes are firmly focused on the future – including the addition of many events and partnerships, and the unveiling of a new logo and prototype website.”

Folks coming to the anniversary enjoy looking at photos of events and volunteers, past and present on this giant “memory wall”.

Mike Abbate, the newly appointed director of Portland Parks & Recreation – they own the property – celebrates with Executive Director David Porter.

Leach Garden Friends and guests celebrate three decades with a light luncheon buffet.

Other highlights included development of a business plan, completion of a property survey in anticipation of design work for the upper Garden, initiation of the Leach Garden Arts program, purchase of a new restroom facility for the upper Garden, and the addition of a second gardener/curator.

The former director of Portland Park & Recreation, Zari Santner, spends a moment with Leach Garden Friends’ president, Gay Greger.

Friends save park
Zari Santner, former director of Portland Park & Recreation shared her special relationship with Leach Botanical Garden.

“I was one of two on the Bureau’s planning staff years ago,” Santner began.

“You know, the City almost lost the garden,” Santner continued. “Did you know that? When John Leach gave the garden to the City of Portland, it was on the condition that said it had to be opened to the public within 10 years. If they didn’t, the property would be given, instead, to the Portland YMCA.”

Gypsy Klezmer – Jack Falk and Martin Morgenbesser – provide toe-tapping, hand-clapping fun.

Years came and went, Santner recalled, without any action. “During the 10th year, when the City hadn’t done anything, the Leach Garden Friends group formed to pressure the city leaders to take ownership, and start working on the garden, and open it to the public. If it weren’t for the efforts of the Friends group, the public would have lost access to this wonderful property.”

In total, the Leach Garden Friends has a membership of about 500, Gregor said. “One of our goals is to bring us up to 600 members in the new year.”

Leach Botanical Garden hosts Holiday Bazaar and Artist Market

From wreathes to centerpieces, such as these colorful arrangements, the annual Leach Botanical Garden Holiday Bazaar is a one-stop-shop for Holiday decorations.

For many years, folks have known the best place to get seasonal decorating raw materials and finished goods is the annual Leach Holiday Bazaar, on the first Friday and Saturday of December.

This year, caravans headed for “Sleepy Hollow” – what the Leach family called their property, when they lived there – on December 2nd and 3rd for the annual event.

Amie Griggs shows one of her “Snow Friends” to Leach Garden Friend Katie Goodwin.

One of many volunteers at the event, Katie Goodwin, said, “Here we sell a lot of bulk greens. We go out during the week, and trim people’s trees to get our bulk greens for the bazaar.”

Many garden clubs and volunteers also helped by putting together wreaths and swags they also have for sale, Goodwin added. “And we have delicious baked goods that are for sale, too, as well as candy.”

Leach Garden Friend Sharon Goodwill talks plants with visitor Debora Fetzer.

New this year was the addition of eight artisans, Goodwin observed. “They’ve brought lovely items that they’ve been selling, here in the Manor House. This is the first year that we’ve opened our doors to outside vendors, and it seems to be a good addition.”

Next to the Spring Plant Sale, and the Summer Tea, this is the group’s third-biggest fundraiser of the year. “We raise money to pay for staff at the Garden.  While we receive some funding to the City of Portland, and through grants, our fundraising efforts go toward supporting the physical operation of the Garden.”

In all, volunteers said they hoped to realize about $3,500 from this celebration, in which about 80 volunteers participated.

Leach Garden Friend volunteer Ron Goodwin checks one of the many wreaths on display at the sale.

If you’re interested in learning about upcoming events at Leach Botanical Garden, check out our Community Calendar: CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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