Independence Center Master Gardeners

The Missouri Botanical Gardens is an organization dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of gardening. Founded in 1859, it is the nation’s oldest botanical garden in operation and is a national historic landmark. One of the many activities offered by Missouri Botanical Gardens is their Master Gardeners program. This unique program offers horticulture information and assistance to the public for community service and gardening pleasure through volunteer efforts. Independence Center members Craig and Richard recently graduated from the 16-week program and were happy to share some of their experience.

Craig and Richard have always had a passion for gardening. “Both of us feel like working with plants is good therapy,” said Richard. Gardening provides meaningful work, they get to see the fruits of their labor and it’s a very tangible hobby to complement their passion for horticulture. This program compliments Independence Center’s mission of assisting those living with mental illness to live and work in the community, independently and with dignity. “We got into the Master Gardeners Program because we knew it would further our gardening knowledge,” said Craig. Classes began in January 2013 at the Botanical Gardens in South Saint Louis and though they have only recently graduated from the program, Craig and Richard have been involved in Independence Centers’ gardening efforts for a long time.

In 2009, Independence Center planted their own vegetable and herb garden at one of the Center’s residential facilities. The Clubhouse’s newly revived focus on wellness prompted the garden, and Craig and Richard jumped at the opportunity to get involved. They have been integral in the garden’s growth and success, and their newly acquired knowledge from the Master Gardeners program is going enhance an already successful garden. Craig and Richard’s participation have been integral in building a stronger relationship with the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Partnerships with exceptional organizations such as the Missouri Botanical Gardens provides opportunities to extend our educational program and possibly provide job opportunities in the future as we explore ways to work with them in our employment program.

Craig and Richard’s passion for gardening comes naturally. They would refer to it as a “calling.” This calling led them to the Master Gardeners program, and in return their passion has aided in giving back to the St. Louis community. The same community Independence Center relies on to continue the mission of restoring lives. We thank you.