Garden tour to benefit foster families

COURTESY PHOTO Julie Hoffmann, owner of East River Nursery, stands by a greenhouse frame at her home that they covered with chicken wire and fencing in an effort to keep deer and birds away from her plants and vegetables. Hoffmann has joined First Congregational Church to raise money for local foster families. She is hosting a garden tour from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at 4233 Dakota Ave. S.

Anyone who loves gardening will want to mark Saturday, Aug. 20, on their calendars for a Garden Tour from 8 to 11:30 a.m., at the home of Julie Hoffmann, 4233 Dakota Ave. S.

Hoffmann, who owns East River Nursery, has a proverbial green thumb that is evident in the many flower and vegetable gardens around her home. “We’ll have refreshments, a southern gal is making sweet tea and lemonade, and we’ll have fresh-baked cookies,” Hoffmann said.

“I have a full vegetable garden, it’s quite concentrated,” she said. “Lots of flowers, perennials, trees and shrubs. It’s a little unique. People can come and ask gardening questions, enjoy refreshments and spend a morning in the garden.”

Hoffmann said the Garden Tour is a joint effort between East River Nursery and First Congregational Church to raise money to support foster families. The tour and refreshments are free, and they will be accepting donations to help foster families in the area. The church has offered a $500 matching grant for this project.

“We are promoting a fundraiser that is near and dear to my heart,” Hoffmann said. “It takes a special family to shepherd foster children, but foster family’s budgets are sometimes stretched to the maximum — even with the funds they receive from Social Services.”

Children and teens enter foster care through no fault of their own because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned and are unable to continue living safely with their families. An estimated 400,000 children were in foster care nationwide in 2020.

The absence of family, familiar surroundings and predictable next steps are some of the greatest hardships that kids in foster care face.

The Rev. Charles Borchard, minister at First Congregational Church, said he received a letter from a local pastor seeking funds to help a family fostering four orphan siblings. “We wanted to do something to contribute whatever we can to that real need,” Borchard said.

Quoting Matthew 19:13, Borchard pointed out that little children were brought to Jesus to be blessed, but the disciples tried to send them away. “The religious leaders at the time did not value women and children,” he added. “With the most recent move overturning Roe vs. Wade, we value life. We are gung-ho for anything that supports children and families. We thought it was the right time when this opportunity came up.”

The Rev. Tom Brantner, minister at Restoration Church (formerly Assembly of God), is a supporter of foster families and is one of the leaders of Royal Family Kids Camp for area children in foster care.

“Foster children have a special place in my heart because of what they’ve experienced through no fault of their own,” Brantner said. “Trauma they’ve gone through affects them developmentally and emotionally.

When we do our camp, our goal is to give them one week to forget about everything else and just be a kid.

“Some have to grow up way too soon and live in fear and anxiety,” he said. “When it’s somebody so innocent, you just want to help. We know with children the expenses can be crazy and overwhelming at times. There’s more to it than food and clothing. People have a soft spot in their hearts for foster care in this area.”

Hoffmann said she’s opened her home and gardens for tours in the past to help support other projects. In 2018, a garden tour helped raise funds for a local Girl Scout  project to create Legacy Park, located on the south side of Huron Regional Medical Center.

“We want people to come and enjoy the gardens, and if they want to give a donation to help support foster families they can,” Hoffmann said.

“You can give whatever your heart might prompt you to do. I’m praying we blow this out of the water and make a real difference in the lives of foster kids.”