Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Than A Pretty Face

Whenever you visit Birmingham Botanical Gardens, what’s the first thing you notice? More than likely your answer has something to do with “the natural beauty.”  And there is nothing wrong with noticing the loveliness of the flowers, trees, landscapes, and so forth. It’s truly breath-taking and a wonder to behold. But there’s more to The Gardens than just our pretty face. After all, it is our mission, our reason for being, to educate the public about plants, gardens and the environment.

The Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens work hard, year-round, to raise money—much of it through events such as Antiques at The Gardens—to fund free, curriculum-based Discovery Field Trips to Birmingham-area schoolchildren. Last school year, we served a record 7,456 schoolchildren from Birmingham and Bessemer City Schools, nearly a 13% increase over the 2008-2009 year; a total of nearly 10,000 kids were able to take advantage of these science-based garden adventures and 97% did so absolutely free, including transportation expenses. By bringing the classroom to life, we’re laying the educational foundation for future engineers, botanists, doctors, chefs, chemists, innovators and so on.

Another educational program here at The Gardens that goes beyond our looks is Horticultural Therapy, which will be revamped for 2011. In 2009, the program won the prestigious John Walker Community Service Award and serviced more than 3,200 clients with intellectual or developmental disabilities, physical limitations, or emotional impairments. The fundamental tenet of Horticultural Therapy programming is that gardening is good for mind, body and soul. Clients develop critical social skills, learn about science and nature, increase motor skills, gain independent living knowledge and otherwise enhance the quality of their lives.

Thanks in large part to businesses and individuals who sponsor our events and the guests who attend them, we are able to grow year after year. Whether it be Red Diamond with the Antiques at The Gardens lecture series or Ford Fiesta Little Big Tour with Cocktails in The Gardens or the 7,400 shoppers at the Spring Plant Sale or a grant from a charitable foundation, these myriad of philanthropists provide about 40% of our revenue each year through events.

Discovery Field Trips and Horticultural Therapy are only two of the pieces of a large, educational puzzle here at The Gardens. Factor in Earth Day at The Gardens, The Library, Gardens Explorations, Adult & Family Classes, Southern Institute of Photography, Summer Camps at The Gardens, HollyDay Magic and partnerships with other organizations such as Fresh Air Family, and you’ve got a whole lot going on beneath our stunning façade. And we couldn’t do it without you, our loyal supporters, volunteers, members, donors, visitors.

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