JARS v57n2 - Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens Grow and Bloom: 1979-2003

Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens Grow and Bloom: 1979-2003
Kristi O'Donnell
Greenbank, Washington

The year was 1979. Seattle Rhododendron Society member Ann Meerkerk, with the wish to preserve the garden estate she and her husband Max created, bequeathed their gardens to the SRS.

"I have envisioned for the future...a careful and methodical development of a peaceful woodland garden emphasizing rhododendrons and companion plants..." Ann Wright Meerkerk, 1979

After years of team building, fund-raising and networking, Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens exhibited its ability to manage its affairs, both financially and horticulturally. The Seattle Rhododendron Society (SRS), parent organization of the Gardens, determined to graciously separate from Meerkerk. This decision was made after a thorough study of the legal issues and desires of the SRS membership.

An analogy of a plant was expressed by SRS President Diane Thompson: A seed is planted and nourished. A plant grows, it is shaped and then it flowers. Meerkerk Gardens is blossoming.

In June of 2002, Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens received its not-for-profit corporate status from the state of Washington. In February 2003, the United States Department of Internal Revenue Service letter of determination arrived, announcing Meerkerk's status as a tax-exempt 501 (C) 3 organization. A new Board of Directors has been appointed to lead the Gardens. The members are:

Don Lee, President

Jeanine Smith, Vice President

Ed VanPatten, Treasurer/Secretary

Frank Fujioka, Director

Dave Anderson, Director

Kristi O'Donnell, Executive Director

Assisting the board are Whidbey Island ARS member Marilynn Wright, recording secretary, and Sandra Bodamer, assistant treasurer.

A few members of the ARS have asked how this change will affect the Gardens? Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens now has a board of directors whose sole responsibility is the care of the Gardens and their future. Likewise, this change of ownership frees the board of the SRS from outside responsibilities.

The mission of Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens holds true to the vision Ann Meerkerk dreamt decades ago.

On behalf of the Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens Board of Directors: a heartfelt thanks to all the people who have worked so hard over the years to bring about this transition. We look forward to sharing with you the long range plans and news of the Gardens as they develop.