For many of us, the stress of life seems to weigh heavier with each passing year. COVID-19 has made life more difficult; we all need time to find balance to take on life’s next challenge. More than ever, we are showing our appreciation for the great outdoors.
For 22 years, the Florida Botanical Gardens has been a hub for nature, education, and wonder, where all are welcome. The 100-acre park nestled in Largo offers more than just a beautiful oasis in the middle of urban Pinellas County.
The park draws in worldwide visitors with a vast array of Florida native plants and exotic flora. It offers guests an interactive learning environment, safety, solace, and reconnection to the natural world.
The Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation has been integral to the park’s success. A group of volunteers vested in flourishing the gardens first organized the foundation in the early 1990s, and the foundation has remained true to its roots ever since.
The foundation advances the gardens through member support, fundraising, donations, and sponsorships. It also organizes annual events, such as Holiday Lights in the Garden, for the community to enjoy and connect with the beautiful landscape.
Cultivating Love for the Environment
One of the foundation’s biggest upcoming projects is the groundbreaking of the Majeed Discovery Garden: A Place For Children. The children’s garden will add 2 acres of cultivated garden that will feature an outdoor classroom, a pollinator landing play area, and a musical forest filled with instruments for youth interaction and learning.
For Executive Director Vernon Bryant, one of the key values of the gardens is education. It is a place where people can come and learn about plants in an impactful way.
Admissions to the grounds are free to the public. However, Vernon reports that the greatest challenge the foundation faces is philanthropy. FBGF requires funding to support community-building events and projects. “It’s about accessing the people who can help and being able to communicate with people about our needs,” says Vernon.
Another big challenge is getting the best internal support. As a relatively young organization, the foundation is still working to find the right mix of board members. Some directors, including Vernon, are considering retirement. So, FBGF must find successors who will keep the spirit of the foundation thriving.
According to Vernon, the board’s passion and dedication truly transform the foundation’s ability to accomplish what they do. “Sometimes it feels like the sky’s the limit with things we can do, just because of the energy brought by the board members every day,” explains Vernon.
Even with such dedication, the job isn’t easy. The board is currently working to fill a gap in the capital funding required to complete the Majeed Discovery Garden, which will be the signature project.
Community Support Is Essential to the Park’s Success
Delays due to the pandemic, permitting issues, and the recent escalation of construction costs have required an additional $1 million to fully build and implement programming for the children’s garden as planned.
Vernon says the foundation has been “working over the last five years to secure grants to help us do the many great things we really want to do, without a lot of success.” Receiving a grant from PCF for the first time has made all the difference. “Getting this PCF grant gives us renewed hope that we can tell our story well,” says Vernon. “Thanks to PCF for believing in us.”
The Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation board of directors welcomes collaboration from the Pinellas community. Interested parties can find more information at their website.
You Can Help Preserve Our Environment
Pinellas Community Foundation is dedicated to preserving our environment for future generations to enjoy. Your commitment to preserving Pinellas County’s green space can help support the important work of nonprofits focused on the same.