Grass Roots

Annual plant sale hits 40 years of growth

Carolyn VanWyk wanted to raise money for the hospital, and 40 years later, her legacy continues. The West River Health Services Women’s Auxiliary hosted their 40th plant sale on Friday, May 19.

A patron of the plant sale (L) talks to event organizer Jennifer Seamands (R). (Record Photo by Cole Benz)

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor

Barb West, who has been one of the event organizers and contributors for years, said she enjoys it because it seems to be a never-ending event.

“It’s just amazing,” West said. “Carolyn came out with such a great idea that has sustained itself, and been supported by the community for that many years.”

“I feel like I’m really proud to be carrying on a really good tradition for the women’s auxiliary,” said Jennifer Seamands, who has partnered with Barb West to organize the sale for the past decade. “I feel like it’s a gift to the kiddos to.”

Those kiddos she’s referring to are senior students heading into medical field. The sale’s proceeds go to two $500 scholarships that are awarded annually. Students from any one of the areas serviced by West River are able to apply for the scholarships.

Barb West (R) talks with customers of the plant sale in Hettinger. The annual sale celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. (Record Photo by Cole Benz)

This year was an exception as they were able to hand out three this year. It’s the first year Seamands said she could remember that happening. Students from Hettinger and Scranton were awarded the scholarships this year.

VanWyk’s idea developed at some of her own practices, or practices of gardeners—thinning out their flower beds. Her thought was, if plants are just being discarded into the trash, why not give people the opportunity to give them a home and generate some funds.

The event has always been a freewill donation operation, and according to information, the sale brings in more than $800 per yer, thanks to the generosity of community members.

Up until a few years ago, the plant sale was held across the street from the West River ambulance garage. But three years ago that space was rendered unavailable, but the ambulance garage volunteered their space and Seamands said it’s been good relationship. The crew even helps out with set up and take down before and after each event.

“It’s a good partnership,” she said.

In year’s past it has been mostly and exchange of perennial plants, but in the last four or five years, Seamands said, there has been an explosion of house plants.

New this year was the availability of actual pots for the plants. Seamands said they received some calls asking if they could bring unused potting plants, and there was a pile available for anyone that wanted to take one.

In the future, Seamands thought it might be cool to have a type of silent auction for do-it-yourself items like palette benches, or other items seen on the internet or the social media app Pinterest.

But both Seamands and West couldn’t say enough about the support the event gets from the community.

“We do really appreciate the support, especially with the freewill donations, it’s fairly phenomenal that the community will come out and support an event like this, knowing that it’s scholarships, and it’s a win-win, it’s not just asking for money,” Seamands said “It’s time tested and it’s been successful.”

“It’s just amazing,” West said. “Carolyn came out with such a great idea that has sustained itself, and been supported by the community for that many years.”

The auxiliary club was formed in 195 as the first members sewed curtains for the new hospital. The group will have donated $227,581 by the end of 2017.