Dan Eakin/Staff Photo – McKinney Garden Club members lined up behind a 25-foot-long thank-you banner that was signed and sent to them by Caldwell Elementary School students and teachers for the club’s $500 donation to the Caldwell Community Gardens at the school.


By Dan Eakin, deakin@starlocalnews.com

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 9:44 PM CDT
About 60 members of the McKinney Garden Club lined up behind a 25-foot-long thank-you banner from Caldwell Elementary School students and teachers at a club meeting Tuesday at Heard-Craig Hall.

The students and teachers were expressing their gratitude for a recent $500 donation to the Caldwell Community Gardens Club at the school.

Carolyn Curfman, who with Marilee Crawford and Marcie York serve as volunteer leaders to help with the gardens, told McKinney Garden Club members the money is being used to purchase seeds, plants, craft items and gloves for children. Some of the money will go toward purchasing a tool shed for the gardens.

Dan Eakin/Staff Photo – Carolyn Curfman, left, and Marilee Crawford admire the Caldwell Elementary School Community Gardens, which include a flower garden (foreground) and a vegetable garden (background). The gardens beautify the campus and provide vegetables for families of Caldwell students.

The three women provide leadership to as many as a dozen volunteers who help in the gardens. Volunteers are either members of First United Methodist Church (FUMC), parents or master gardeners.

About two years ago, some FUMC members conceived the idea of planting a flower garden just outside the Caldwell school library so teachers could have a pleasant place to go for a break or lunch and where students could study nature. That idea eventually blossomed into having both a flower garden and a vegetable garden.

The FUMC, Collin County Master Gardeners Association and Chambersville Tree Farm have made contributions to the gardens.

Last year, about 15 students signed up to join the Caldwell Elementary School Community Garden Club. This year, after the gardens obviously did so well, 150 students joined the club, Curfman said.

Crawford said the students really enjoy working in the garden, planting seeds or plants and watching them grow.

The flowers add beauty to the school campus, and the vegetables provide food for many of the families of children who attend Caldwell Elementary, Crawford said.

“Many of the children at Caldwell would not otherwise have many garden vegetables at home,” she said, “and in the spring they often get sacks of vegetables out of the garden to take home for family meals.”

Among the vegetables that have been or are being grown in the garden are carrots, Brussels sprouts, onions, beets, cabbage, parsley, bell peppers and others. Fruits are also raised in the garden.

“Last year, we had tons of cantaloupes and tomatoes,” Crawford said.

She said FUMC, which is only a few blocks from Caldwell Elementary, sort of “adopted” the school a few years ago and has helped the students there in various ways. Church members often mentor the children and address their needs and concerns.

“At Christmas time, the church provides clothing and other items for many of the students,” she said.

Crawford, Curfman and York are all master gardeners and members of the Collin County Master Gardeners Association, as are some of the other volunteers.

Mrs. J. L. Lovejoy and a group of local women in October 1930 organized the McKinney Garden Club to promote an interest in gardens, their designs and management, and to encourage and help with civic plantings.

Among the special civic projects the club has supported over the years include the Collin McKinney Pioneer Home, the McKinney Library grounds, City Park, the Chestnut Square Gardens, and the Heard-Craig House Gardens.

Today’s members remain dedicated to civic improvement and beautification.

The club meets at 11:30 a.m. every second Tuesday from September through May. Informative meetings with a scheduled guest speaker and program are held at the corner of Church and Hunt streets in the Heard-Craig Hall Gallery.

Club membership is limited to 60 people, and there is a waiting list. But visitors and guests are welcome.