Garden club celebrates 60 years of beautifying Murrysville

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

When Mal Caliendo moved to Murrysville in 1965, she knew she wanted to make a positive impact on the quiet community in which she planned to raise her four children.

Not long after moving to her half-acre home off School Road, a neighbor encouraged her to get involved with the Murrysville Garden Club. More than 45 years later, Caliendo has no regrets – she's led the club as its president, overseen its junior gardeners group and made scads of friends.

“People really have put their heart and soul into what they're doing with nature here,” Caliendo said.

It's the dedication of members and commitment from the community that has kept the Murrysville Garden Club alive for so long, organizers said last week as the club celebrated 60 years. It's one of 11 clubs in District 7 of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania, which includes groups in Monroeville, New Kensington, Penn Hills and McKeesport. Other nearby clubs, such as the one in Oakmont, are not members of the federation. Western Pennsylvania's garden clubs are well-established, said Judy Schaffer, past director of District 7. Many of them have strong membership and continue to recruit new members, male and female, in an era when recreational time is at a premium, she said.

“They are doing well because of the love of nature and gardening that people have,” Schaffer said. “It doesn't focus on one age group – if you love to plant, you can get into gardening. There's a lot of friendships that have been made in these garden clubs.”

While those friendships are integral to the social aspect of Murrysville's club, the group isn't about seeing and being seen.

The garden club meets monthly for various programs on nature and the environment and offers an annual scholarship in addition to its junior garden club that works regularly with Franklin Regional third-graders.

Each month, the group also visits two local nursing homes for garden therapy, where residents create garden-related crafts.

The group also plants a tree annually in celebration of Arbor Day, is responsible for maintenance of several garden areas in the community and offers two, alternating, biennial events – the flower show and the garden tour – in addition to its annual flower sale each Mother's Day weekend.

It's a full plate for members, said Valerie Wilson, co-president of the club.

“We're helping beautify the community – it's an outlet for a lot of ladies who love gardening and have environmental concerns,” said Wilson, who has been a member since 1997. “It says something about the dedication of our members that we're able to draw in new members to keep us vibrant.”

Currently, the group has 65 active members.

Recruitment is never easy, members said, as the club once was able to pull from a large pool of stay-at-home mothers. These days, membership chairwomen rely on word-of-mouth, said Judy Kosslow, a member for about eight years.

“They come for the camaraderie of members and a love of gardening,” Kosslow said.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or

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