Planting with Purpose
Kiwanis of Southport and Oak Island’s annual Plant Sale helps grow a better community.
Ah, the sights and sounds of springtime! With the changing of the season comes the task of revitalizing gardens and planting fresh shrubs and flowers. But what if spring planting could benefit a higher purpose?
On April 17 Kiwanis of Southport and Oak Island will host its19th annual plant sale at the St. James Community Center. The sale will feature twice-a-year blooming encore azaleas in addition to landscape bushes, flowers and herbs. All proceeds from the sale will benefit the children of Brunswick County.
The plant sale had humble beginnings. In 2002 Tom Pezanowski of Southport received a call from a Kiwanis member asking for help to organize a plant sale fundraiser. As a North Carolina State Extension Master Gardener of Brunswick County with a heart for volunteerism, Pezanowski was perfect for the job. He had volunteered with Boy Scouts, participated in town clean-up events and worked with troubled teens. Pezanowski immediately took charge of the plant sale, contacted a nursery in Alabama, informed the community about the sale and took pre-orders. And then he displayed 280 encore azaleas in his own driveway in St. James Plantation. The result was a surprising $2,242 in proceeds.
The sale has come a long way since then. It now includes Southport, Oak Island and a presence at the Southport Spring Festival as well as the addition of shrubs, herbs and flowers. Since 2002 the plant sale has generated $95,283 in proceeds.
Larry Trainor of Southport became involved in the plant sale in 2016 and took over responsibility from Pezanowski in 2018 after training with him for two years.
“I took over to give Tom a break,” Trainor says. “But even though he’s older than me, he has more energy than me.”
It seems they both have a lot of energy. Trainor dedicates nearly 250 hours of his time per year and Pezanowski tops 300, which includes time raising plants at home for the sale. Together they are a model of teamwork and comradery.
“In addition to the plant sale, my regular volunteer Kiwanis activities are Meals on Wheels, Royal Readers, Listening Post and Peer Court,” Trainor says. “I’m retired and have time to give back. I didn’t volunteer that much while working. It’s so much fun working with the kids, and Brunswick County children have so many needs. Kiwanis is the perfect way to help kids.”
The volunteer work of the members of Kiwanis has broad reach. Chartered in 1993, the 85 men and women volunteers of Kiwanis of Southport and Oak Island serve the communities of Southport, Oak Island, Boiling Spring Lakes, St. James, Bolivia and Supply through service, education, guidance and leadership.
The scope of outreach is extensive: Teen Court and Peer Court, Terrific Kids, Royal Readers, Listening Post, First Tee, New Hope Clinic, Matthews’ Ministry, Interfaith Food Pantry, Computers for Kids, Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, Brunswick Family Assistance and Meals on Wheels. Kiwanis also supplies books to the Kiwanis Lending Library located on Howe Street in Southport, provides fresh produce to local underserved families from its volunteer-cultivated Giving Garden in Bolivia, and offers $20,000 annually in scholarships.
The chapter was proud to be recognized as a Powerful Partner in 2017 by Brunswick County Schools. In 2020 the group received the American Legion of North Carolina Children and Youth Services award and for the 19th consecutive year, the Kiwanis International Distinguished Club award. The club’s volunteer hours average 10,000 annually.
Trainor is quick to point out that the plant sale would not be successful without the support of the four nurseries: Flowerwood Nursery, Tinga Nursery, Carolina Greenery and Shelton Herb Farm, who sell to Kiwanis at wholesale.
Trainor says, “During these difficult times, the need is greater than ever. Come out and support us. The money we raise goes directly to the children we serve. 100 percent. And you can get our plants for the same price or less than at local nurseries. Plus, you don’t have to travel far at all. It’s a win-win for everyone!”
Want to go?
Kiwanis of Southport and Oak Island 19th Annual Plant Sale
April 17, 10 am to 3 pm
St. James Community Center, 4136 Southport-Supply Road SE (rear parking lot), St. James
For more information about the plant sale or to discuss specific landscaping needs, contact Larry Trainor at firstname.lastname@example.org or (443) 253-7145.