Contributed by Ken McLemore, Communication Director, Hope Public Schools
An earth sciences garden developed from a concept created by Hope Academy of Public Service EAST program students was named the 2019 Seeds of Hope Arkansas Master Gardener Project of the Year at the state conference of the AMG program at Hempstead Hall here Tuesday.
“Denny’s Place,” dedicated to the service of longtime Hope School Board member the late Denver L. “Denny” Dickinson, of Guernsey, was honored in the MG 50-under member category. Supporter Bruce Ward, of Hope, was given the “Friend of Master Gardener” award in the category, as well.
Ward is the husband of Hempstead County Master Gardener and co-chair of the project, Marlon Ward, who directed the volunteers mentoring the project with Nan Wright, also of Hope.
“I can’t tell you how many hours Bruce spent working on this project and building things, and advising us on things to make the project a success,” Hope Master Gardener and school board member Kathryn Dickinson said. “All of our Hempstead County Master Gardeners have worked so hard on this project under the direction of Marlon and Nan. This has been a very big undertaking by our group, but now it is certainly paying off by being recognized as project of the year by the state.”
The raised bed garden is configured in the shape of the letter “H” and is part of a classroom unit that will include a covered “outdoor classroom,” has two 4×4 storage units and benches for student use.
The garden features at least six planting spaces which are surrounded in the total configuration by “paver” stones sponsored by donors to the project. The decorated paver stones recognize the donating sponsor with original artwork created by donors and students. Projects from the space will provide for honeybee “pollinator” plants; the production of “starter plants” for garden projects at students’ homes; and, the production of vegetables for HAPS cafeteria preparation and donation to local food pantries.
The project was in the planning stages when Denny Dickinson, an early avid supporter, passed away in September 2018. Students at HAPS allowed the project to become his legacy to the campus, Mrs. Dickinson said.
“Of course, it is a project that is close to my heart and the hearts of my family because of it being named after my late husband, Denny,” she said. “When this project was in the early planning stages, Denny was instrumental in initiating some things to get the project started and get it off the ground. This project will always be close to my heart.”
The project was nominated for the state award in February, along with documentation and a photographic record of its development. The Hempstead County Master Gardener chapter was notified of both awards in March, in the middle of final planning for the statewide conference that was conducted this week at Hempstead Hall.
“We are very lucky that the conference was held in Hope this spring,” Mrs. Dickinson said.
The project began with planning by HAPS EAST students Kovel Phillips, Courtland Jackson, Karlie Beck, Jordan Simington, Ashlyn Courtney, Ki Hamilton, and Keller Tomlin; and, has since become a project of the entire EAST class under the direction of teacher Jackie Brady.
HAPS Principal Dr. Carol Ann Duke said the project has become a point of community pride.
“We are so honored to have our partnership with the Hempstead County Master Gardeners acknowledged at the state level with Project of the Year,” Dr. Duke said. “Our students and the community have really worked hard to turn that corner of our campus into something remarkable and sustainable. And, having Bruce Ward acknowledged as Friend of the Year is just icing on the cake.”