This Volunteer Has Great Ideas for Shepard Garden and Arts Center
By Jessica Laskey
Noelle Anderson loves to garden. She also loves the Shepard Garden and Arts Center, the venerable mid-century building in McKinley Park that’s played host to a wide variety of gardening, flower and creative arts clubs for more than 60 years. Put the two together and it’s a perfect match.
“There’s so much going on here,” says Anderson, who made her way to East Sac after time spent in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Chico, Davis (to earn her master’s degree in applied linguistics) and Arden-Arcade. “The center is open almost every night with meetings of about 30 different clubs.”
Anderson’s first experience with SG&AC—which was built by the city of Sacramento in 1958 and later renamed in honor of Iva Gard Shepard, a Sacramento Bee garden columnist and longtime president of the center’s board—was as a member of the Perennial Plant Club.
Upon retiring from her job as an ESL teacher for the San Juan Unified School District and Sacramento City College, Anderson decided to devote even more time to the center. She joined Friends of the SG&AC—the nonprofit arm that focuses on outreach and events—and eventually the center’s board when it gained autonomy from the city two years ago.
“By golly, I’ve got ideas,” Anderson says with a grin.
Last spring, Anderson put her first idea, the Perimeter Project, into motion. The project centers on upping the building’s curb appeal to entice outside renters and make the area more inviting to passersby.
“We want it to really look like a place that nurtures gardening and the arts,” Anderson says.
To that end, she got the city to fix the sprinkler system and then devised a plan to allow various plant clubs to take over specific beds around the property and spruce them up with the help of volunteers. Clubs can request funds from Friends of the SG&AC to pay for plants, mulch, improvements to the irrigation system and a plaque identifying their club as a reminder of the work it takes to make a garden grow.
Anderson hopes to encourage club members and outside volunteers who want to get their hands dirty to take up the mantle of SG&AC volunteer superheroes Lee Ruth and Daisy Mah, who currently take care of many of the beds by themselves.
“I’ve been warned that nobody will help, but that’s not true,” says Anderson, who still finds time in her busy travel and SG&AC schedule to play piano in a classical quartet and go on hikes with the Sierra Club. “As long as you talk to people and keep trying, the effort will pay off.”
To volunteer for the Perimeter Project, email Anderson at email@example.com. Donations can be made to Friends of the SG&AC, 3330 McKinley Blvd., Sacramento, 95816. For more information, visit sgaac.org.