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Garden clubs aid disaster-devastated areas

I The National Garden Clubs organization is supporting a reforestation effort that includes areas hard-hit by wildfires and other natural disasters.
/ Source: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — If your image of a garden club is limited to ladies planting azaleas in the town square, think again: The National Garden Clubs is supporting a reforestation effort that includes areas hard-hit by wildfires and other natural disasters.

National Garden Clubs Inc., headquartered in St. Louis, and the U.S. Forest Service began working together in 2002 to raise money for the service's Penny Pines program, which replants damaged forests.

Now, largely because of natural disasters last year, the organization is asking its 200,000 members to support the program and asking communities and civic organizations nationwide to pitch in.

"When you have a club interested in growing things, planting and helping in their communities, it naturally leads to environmental efforts," said Art Loesch, the National Garden Clubs' reforestation and restoration chairman. The Foothill Ranch, Calif., resident said land within a half mile of his own home burned in a wildfire last year.

Contributions goal
California has about 20 million acres of national forest land and more than 550,000 acres of it burned in fires last year, said Brenda Kendrix, the Forest Service's Penny Pines coordinator for the Pacific Southwest.

To date, the National Garden Clubs have raised at least $33,000 toward the Penny Pines program. Organizers have not set a goal for contributions in 2008.

Other organizations also take part in the Penny Pines program.

Usually, donations from a club for the Penny Pines program will go to a forest supervisor in the club's state to buy seedlings and prepare sites. But a club can request that donations go to another state in need, May said.

The organization will also forward donations from the public. Donations to the Penny Pines program are traditionally made in multiples of $68, because when the Forest Service program began in 1941, seedlings cost about 1 cent each, and about 680 seedlings were used to plant an acre.