Volunteers from Gardener’s Supply in Waterbury, VT.

At Gardener’s Supply, we are encouraged to get out into the community and do some good. In support of that vision, the company matches employees’ charitable donations, and offers one paid day a year of volunteer time. Employees lend a hand in many ways: We donate blood, we collect food for the food shelf, we are mentors, we volunteer with youth groups, sports teams and more.

Each year, one employee-volunteer is honored with the Meg Smith Community Service Award, named for a former employee. It’s meant to recognize someone who gives back to the community with enthusiasm and dedication. As recipient of the award in 2011, I had the honor of presenting the award to this year’s winner, Mary-Nell Bockman.

Mary-Nell Bockman, performing in the newly restored Whallonsburg Grange Hall.

Mary-Nell lives across the lake in New York State, but works here in Vermont. And in just a few years, she has made a big impact on both sides of the lake. When Mary-Nell moved to Whallonsburg, NY, in 2005, she envisioned the small town’s dilapidated Grange Hall as a community arts center. Today, the 1915 Whallonsburg Grange Hall is all that and more.

It started when she joined a committee that arranged to buy the building from the town for $1. And then she was unstoppable. She organized fund-raisers, wrote grants, asked for donations, created posters and got other people engaged and excited.

Today the hall is the site of many events: musical performances, theater, film festivals, lectures and more. The kitchen was rebuilt so it can be used by local CSAs to teach residents about canning and preserving the food they grow. Once again, people are heard to say, “See you at the Grange!”

On this side of the lake, Mary-Nell led a team of employees to Waterbury, VT, a town that was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene. Within days of the storm, volunteers from Gardener’s Supply brought tools, cleaning supplies, and 120 pairs of Gardener’s Wellies.

The team joined more than 200 other volunteers from around the region, helping residents clean up from 4 feet of muddy water. Mary-Nell explained, “We were all there to dig in and clean up, house by house and block by block. I left at the end of the day, tired for sure, but lifted up by the experience and feeling proud and inspired. Together, we are a force of nature, too.”

I am proud to work for Gardener’s Supply. We are a different kind of company because of the people who work here. Like many other employees, Mary-Nell inspires us with her dedication, generosity and love of life.

Debby Decker
Gardener’s Supply

About the writer: Debby Decker is Garden Center Supervisor at our Williston, VT, store. She enjoys gardening, especially in Grow Bags. “I love canning and preserving.” For the last three years, Debby’s bread-and-butter pickles have won first prize at the Champlain Valley Fair.