Judy Barnes believes in civic involvement and volunteerism.
Barnes' latest role is serving as the new president of The Garden Club of North Carolina Inc., an organization with about 7,000 members statewide. She says she is only the second president from Charlotte to serve.
Organizational skills and enthusiasm are characteristics Barnes said she hopes to bring to the position, and "make a difference" is the theme she has selected for her tenure.
"We make a difference in the quality of your life," Barnes said. She will be at the helm through 2013.
Barnes, 68, has lived with her husband Frank in the Mountainbrook neighborhood near SouthPark since 1974. "Charlotte's changed a lot since then," she said.
Barnes' hilly, wooded backyard is replete with plants, some of them given to her by friends. "I love pass-along plants," she said.
The Garden Club of North Carolina is a "federated" club, affiliated with National Garden Clubs Inc. Members of the state club participate in numerous activities, including fundraisers like calendar and cookbook sales.
Funds raised from calendar sales - about $18,000 last year - go to college scholarships for North Carolina students studying botany, environmental science, horticulture, landscape architecture and related subjects.
Cookbook proceeds fund other projects. "The best fundraiser we ever do is a cookbook," Barnes said. Barnes' granddaughter, Mattie Bevins, shared some recipes in a section of the "Gardeners in the Kitchen" cookbook reserved for youths.
Youth engagement is one of the club's goals; members try to promote youth gardeners. Barnes says she was affected by the book "Last Child in the Woods," about children growing up lacking an understanding of nature.
The garden club is responsible for three major public gardens around the state: Daniel Boone Native Gardens in Boone, the Elizabethan Gardens at Manteo and the Martha Franck Fragrance Garden at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh.
The fragrance garden hosts plants that can be experienced through touch and smell. Information is presented in Braille.
Club members also are politically active, keeping informed of happenings in the legislature through a liaison in Raleigh and by contacting representatives when necessary. The club partners with the N.C. Department of Transportation, supporting the wildflower program and advocating for roadside beautification and preservation of native plants.
Attending an Atlanta seminar sparked Barnes' interest in "garden therapy," she said.
"I want to try to encourage garden therapy. We do have a garden therapy chairman," she said.
She said she has been impressed with a memorial "healing garden" created by the Delaware Federation of Garden Clubs, a peaceful place for families of fallen service members. Some clubs make healing gardens at senior centers or hospice facilities.
Barnes also is an accredited flower show judge, but her interests aren't confined to floral arrangements and gardening. She also enjoys camping, hiking and traveling.
Barnes envisions being an ambassador for her city as leader of the state garden club. "I'm thrilled to be able to do that for Charlotte," she said.