Four Flags Garden Club recognized for work, reaching milestone

Mayor Mike McCauslin, middle, recognized the Four Flags Garden Club for helping keep Niles beautiful during the past 50 years. Garden club members are, from left: Carla Shier, Karen Persa, Joanne Fintze and Anita Heemer. (Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)

Mayor Mike McCauslin, middle, recognized the Four Flags Garden Club for helping keep Niles beautiful during the past 50 years. Garden club members are, from left: Carla Shier, Karen Persa, Joanne Fintze and Anita Heemer. (Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)

Anyone who has visited the Niles Amtrak Depot in the warmer months has likely noticed the beautiful gardens which adorn the grounds.

What some might not know is the depot gardens are maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers who make up the Four Flags Garden Club, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last month.

On Monday, the club was honored by the City of Niles during a presentation at a meeting of the city council.

Niles Mayor Mike McCauslin said the club has played an important role in the beautification of the city, especially through its work at the Amtrak Depot and the Veterans Memorial Garden in Riverfront Park.

“It is just a great organization and it is quite special to know that it has been around for 50 years,” he said before proclaiming May 15-21 as FFGC Anniversary Week. “It’s been a wonderful, wonderful thing for the city.”

Joanne Fintze, one of four garden club members at the meeting, received a round of applause when it was announced that she was the club’s first president and that she has held the position three separate times.

Anita Heemer, the current club president, said the organization was recently notified that it would receive an award from the state organization, Michigan Garden Clubs, for having the greatest membership increase in its district.

“It is a rarity because more and more of these garden clubs are aging out, so we are still alive and growing,” she said.

Club member Karen Persa said the club has enjoyed a small increase in membership, going from 26 members in 2012 to 30 today.

Persa attributes the growth to the community’s willingness to get involved and the spirit of the club’s members.

“Our membership chairperson, Suzanne Beauchamp, often mentions how smoothly our gardening projects go because we have fun working together and everyone seems to find a niche that fits,” Persa said. “That makes it easier to invite friends to join.”

Over 50 years, club members have participated in hundreds of gardening and beautification projects in and around the Niles area, working with schools, the Berrien County Youth Fair, and civic groups, to name a few.

The main project of the club centers on the Niles Historic Amtrak Depot, where members plant and care for the gardens. In addition, in 2007 club members designed and planted a Yellow Ribbon Garden flowerbed located at the Niles Veterans Memorial area in Riverfront Park.

The club also greets passengers at the Amtrak Depot during Apple Festival weekend and hosts a “Hometown Christmas” event at the depot each winter.

Anyone interested in joining can contact Elaine Metzger at (269) 683-5292.

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