Helping others learn to grow
By Cheri Dragos-Pritchard
Table Rock Lake, with its close proximity to Branson, Mo., is Little Rock District’s most visited lake, and the Master Gardeners of the Ozarks regularly volunteer their time to help keep it beautiful by landscaping the grounds at the Dewey Short Visitors Center. They also share their talent with the visitors.
For the past five years Carol Gerhart has lead the Master Gardeners of the Ozarks as the committee chairperson. The group consists of 75 people who have completed 30 hours of classroom training at the University of Missouri Master Gardener Extension Program. Their mission is, “helping others learn to grow,” Table Rock Park Ranger Malcolm Fortson said.
Once the students have completed the training, they are required to accomplish 30 hours of volunteer service within their community through approved activities. Keeping Table Rock’s gardens cultivated is an approved activity.
In addition to maintaining all the many flower beds and gardens around the center, Gerhart and her volunteers have completely reworked the garden around the flag pole, removing old vegetation and bushes, and replanting the area. This transformation gave the garden “an inviting and pleasant look,” Fortson said.
“She is a dedicated, hard worker,” Fortson added. “She is always in a good mood and always takes time to talk or answer questions many of the visitors to the Dewey Short Visitors Center ask of her. Perhaps we should all work with plants and flowers, if this activity has such a positive affect on a person.”
Fortson also talked about the many hours the gardeners spent working at Table Rock and reminded us that, “these are volunteers; their hard work and dedication have saved the taxpayers and the government time and money.
“In 2008, the Master Gardeners of the Ozarks volunteered 4,651 hours valued at $80,000 in volunteer time,” Fortson said. “Of this, a little over 570 hours, valued at over $11,000, were given to improve and maintain the gardens and flower beds at the Dewey Short Visitors Center.”
Fortson went on to explain how the volunteers did more than just gardening at Table Rock.
“In addition to the gardens at the visitor’s center,” Fortson added. “The Master Gardeners were also involved in activities such as one-on-one teaching, the speaker’s bureau, community beautification projects, a children’s garden and they hosted conferences such as the Spring Gardening Conference and Fall Gardening Workshop.”
Dieter and Marsha Beam graduated from the training course in December 2008, and started volunteering at Dewey Short with Gerhart while still in the course.
“Now that we’re retired, we were looking for something to do in a public service way,” Mr. Beam said. “We wanted to do something that showed the beauty that is so amazing here in the Ozarks, and this seemed to fit perfectly.”
When asked if the couple had a favorite project, they said they couldn’t pick just one.
“For Marsha and I, the biggest thrill is to watch visitors taking pictures of themselves and the gardens and visiting with us,” Mr. Beam stated. “Many times we have been given a ‘thank you’ by guests for the work that is being done.”
The Beams said their relationship with the Corps of Engineers has been a “really good relationship, that we hope lasts for years to come.
“The Corp of Engineers staff at the Dewey Short Center are wonderful to work with,” Mr. Beam explained. “We are able to visit with them about our gardening needs and areas of concern, whether it’s water concerns or a load of mulch; Malcolm, our contact, has been there to answer questions and give us input. I would urge other Master Gardener groups as well as the Corp of Engineers to work on other sites as a team. If they work half as well as this marriage works, it will be a success.”