JARS v57n4 - From The Executive Director

From The Executive Director
Why We Convene

Dee Daneri
Fortuna, California

It's fall with one conference just behind us, and one just ahead. I've recently learned that some folks don't understand why we bother with these conferences. I'd like to share with you a few reasons why we convene.
Two or three years before a conference, a district or chapter calls my office to get on the calendar. Early reservations for hotels take place, and the plant sale committee either starts growing cuttings or contacts contract growers to order plants. They know this will be their biggest moneymaker. Speakers are arranged, tour busses reserved, gift shop, goody bags, registration, garden tours, food, flower show, photo contest, publicity, registration, programs, raffles, silent auctions, table arrangements and more all suddenly require committees. Conference organizers staging their first conference (Category 1) usually go into a coma right after making out the list of needs, and I await a call from a distressed chairperson. Some chapters are real veterans at this (Category 2), give a yawn, and everyone quietly gets to work. Most of our folks are in Category 1.
In the past, start-up funds for small chapters and districts have been a major hurdle. Last year the Society began a start-up loan fund, from which organizers can borrow up to $3,000, to be paid back at the close of the conference. Our first loan was paid back within 30 days after the close of the conference. This helping hand has relieved the financial pressure. Laura Kentala created a Guidebook for conferences, and after the Olympia conference, Connie Kline made a great contribution to the Guidebook. These are also good aids.
Our conferences are organized by volunteers, giving you very low costs for our conferences. It's a time to sit back and enjoy the tours, the speakers, the meals, and friends. Current topics concerning our favorite plant are offered by the top experts, hybridizers bring out their latest models, and private gardens are at your disposal.
While you're sitting back, your board of directors and our twenty-four committees are busy running from one meeting to the next in order to make vital decisions on the future direction of the Society. These projects benefit all of our seventy-two chapters. I try to keep a rigid schedule of meetings to avoid major pile-ups and make it possible for everyone to attend all necessary meetings.
At the end of the day, conference organizers are finally able to reap what they have sown. You have cleaned out the plant sale and the gift shop and bought plenty of raffle tickets. Without you, the member, there would be no conference. Without the hard work of our conference organizers, our chapters and districts would not have the opportunity to fill the piggy bank to be poured back into more public education about our favorite genus.