Members of the Ceres Garden Club would nod their heads in approval of Luther Burbank's observation that: "Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul."
It's evident, in watching the club's work in the community, that love for flora and fauna is a reflection of souls being nourished. Handiwork of members is evident everywhere in Ceres.
"All members truly have the desire to make a significant difference within our town of Ceres," said Ceres Garden Club President Berni Hendrix. "We have helped landscape many public areas, such as before they re-did the entrance to the River Bluff Park over there and the entrance to the cemetery. We've helped with the Whitmore Mansion landscaping as well as the museum. We like to help the (city) Public Works Department with their rose garden, which we now believe needs to be torn out and redone. It's really, really bad. But we haven't got to that point yet."
Hendrix said her club may seek city permission to renovate the Doyle Cummings Memorial Rose Garden, prepare a new bed of compost, install a new watering system and replant with new roses.
Members also annually help landscape the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock.
The 501(c)(3) corporation takes care of the potted greenery in the Ceres Community Center, the place where it meets monthly.
In 2012 the club - through the leadership of the late Shirley Davis - planted the "Pathway of Presidents," or "Let Freedom Ring" project in Smyrna Park. The project consisted of the planting 44 aristocrat pear trees for each president - now 45 with Trump - with a plaque outlining each presidency and respective years of their terms of office. Complementing the lineup of trees is a club-financed bell tower monument as a way of showing appreciation for those who have served the country through its armed forces.
In 2010, members also raised funds to purchase and install the Blue Star Memorial Marker in the northern flower bed of the Ceres Community Center parking lot. The marker honors military service personnel, many who gave their lives in battle.
Last year the club also assisted with the planting of 80 red maples in Ceres residential yards offered through a California Initiative to Reduce Carbon and Limit Emissions (CIRCLE) program through a grant from CalFire.
"We try to keep busy, doing as much as we can to help with the city. We're going to be putting in some new roses in the Whitmore Park for the Arbor Day celebration on Wednesday, May 24. The city is going to plant some trees and we're going to be there with them. They've asked us to give information on Arbor Day and the importance of trees, which of course we will be glad to do."
The club has partnered with the city of Ceres Public Works Department as a co-sponsor of the Water Wise Workshops which offered community education on dealing with the drought.
Active in conservation and preservation, the club has paid for the reforestation of nearly 40 acres of diseased, damaged or burned forest in the Stanislaus National Forest through the Penny for Pines Restoration Program.
The Ceres Garden Club is one of the few state Blue Ribbon Garden Clubs, a status attained by achieving the state club's highest standards.
"Our emphasis is to be all about education, with conservation, beautification and preservation," said Hendrix.
The club meets monthly September through June, taking time off during the hot summer months. Monthly meetings always consist of a learning lecture.
"Our lectures are always very diverse. It can be from pollinators to weed control to native plants to trees, amphibians - all kinds of stuff."
The public is welcome to drop in on meetings, which start at 9:30 a.m. at the Ceres Community Center, 2701 Fourth Street, on the third Thursday of every month. A craft session is planned, usually centered on projects made available for sale to the public at the club's booth at the Ceres Street Faire. Membership is open to everyone. A couple of times per year, the club hosts outings and tours to gardens of interest.
Members are active with "Pot Parties," a time to visit home gardens to divide and pot plants to be offered at the Ceres Street Faire and summer Concerts in the Park.
"(At the Street Faire) we're visible with plants that we propagate out of our own yards, or grow and do container gardenings or individual landscaping plants. We make the little plant pals and cute things to go with them, fairy houses, whatever, paint rocks and all kinds of stuff."
They will be embarking on a new project to recognize Ceres residents who maintain beautiful front yard landscaping as an example of being a responsible neighbor. A sign will be planted in the chosen "yard of the month." Residents may nominate a yard for the honor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The club encourages young people to study toward majors in environmental sciences in college through a scholarship.
"We try to encourage the upward mobility for education of our Ceres youth. We do believe that the way to break the cycle of poverty is through education so we give a grant out annually."
This year's grant is for $3,000 to be parceled out to a graduating senior and a past recipient.
Emphasizing education, the club sponsors two school gardens - with the one at Walter White Elementary School directed by teacher Jill-Marie Purdy receiving national acclaim. They assist with the Ceres Unified School District's After-School program by sponsoring the Smoky Bear / Woodsy Owl Poster Contest to facilitate teaching of fire safety and environmental responsibility through recycling.
Each year the club donated to the Sober Grad Night event and contributes to the Ceres Fire Department's Toys at Christmas program.
The first Ceres Garden Club was established in 1925 but faded in and out of consciousness until 21 years ago when it chartered with the National Council of State Garden Clubs. Ceres is a member of the Pacific Region of the California Garden Clubs, Inc.
At the 85th annual Convention of the California Garden Clubs, Inc., held in Irvine last May, the Ceres club was awarded the coveted Sweepstakes Award. The club was given 10 Excellence Awards for Achievement in various programs and projects. Ceres Garden Club President Berni Hendrix and Secretary Laura Bravinder scooped up the awards. Additionally, the Ceres Garden Club was awarded the Sweepstakes Award Class III (30-44 members) for achieving the highest number of awards during the 2015-16 session.
For more on the Ceres Garden Club, visit www.ceresgardenclub.org or call Hendrix at 402-2351.