URI Master Gardener donates $24,000 to support gardening education programs for children

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KINGSTON, R.I. – June 12, 2007 — One of the first University of Rhode Island Master Gardeners has decided to make a lasting gift that will provide gardening education for many generations to come.

Art Fischer of North Kingstown has made a $24,000 gift to the Master Gardener Foundation of Rhode Island to create an endowment to aid URI Master Gardener educational programs for school children.

The programs are conducted by the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences Outreach Center, formerly the Cooperative Extension Education Center.

Fischer, 82, is one of the oldest and most active Master Gardeners. He enrolled in the training program in 1985 and has since chalked up more than 5,000 hours volunteering in a host of programs, teaching the public, providing workshops for other Master Gardeners, and delivering gardening information in schools and senior centers.

“I’ve always been partial to kids,” says Fischer. He reflected on his experiences in talking to school children in various towns on beekeeping and composting and how interested the children seemed to be. “It was very rewarding to me. I think the younger generation has to have training as to how plants grow and without a program like the one at URI it is difficult for them to get a handle on it,” he says.

“Art is passionate about education and is a gifted teacher,” said Marion Gold, director of the Outreach Center. “His endowment is a wonderful gift to future generations and his legacy will ensure that children throughout Rhode Island will have the opportunity to learn about horticulture and the environment for years to come.”

Frank Crandall, chair of the Master Gardener Foundation’s board of trustees, said “the Foundation is thrilled to receive Art Fischer’s very generous donation to our endowment establishing the Art Fischer Master Gardener Youth Program Fund.” Besides providing long-term support for Master Gardener programs for school children, “Art’s donation makes it possible for the foundation to meet its 2007 goal of increasing the endowment to $50,000,” said Crandall.

Fischer, who over the years helped build facilities at the Outreach Center and worked on the Master Gardener hotline years ago, was also a co-host of a local television gardening show at one time.

After his wife died last year, he says he started going over his papers and found a modest IRA. After checking with his two children, also gardeners, he decided to make a gift to promote children’s programs and approached Gold on the idea.

“After this is announced,” he says, “I hope others will donate to the fund to build it up.”

Fischer says he is still gardening despite a few aches and pains and often ends up with so much produce that he gives it away to neighbors. He jokes he is in a gardening competition with his two children and predicts that this year “I will beat them with my tomatoes.”

Fischer’s donation will be merged with the Master Gardener Foundation’s existing endowment, but income from the gift will be pro-rated annually to support programs put on by the Outreach Center.

A first priority of the funding will be to help provide transportation for school children to reach the URI Botanical Gardens for the Learning Landscape program, which is offered in the fall and spring. Increasingly, school systems on tight budgets have had to curtail such field trips. Other uses of the funds will be to replace teaching materials, adaptation of the Kingston-based program to urban areas, and printing of curricula and training materials.

Pictured above

URI Master Gardener Art Fischer (center, back row) joins URI Outreach Center Director Marion Gold (back row left) and Outreach Educator Cathy Cote (back row right) and students from the A.B. Hennessy School in East Providence to celebrate Fischer’s $24,000 gift to the Master Gardener Foundation to provide gardening education programs to schoolchildren. URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.