Above – Dell Children’s Medical Center Pond. The 2014 Beneficiary

By BJ Jenkins

It would seem that the pond and garden tour sponsored by the Austin Pond Society would be all about water features, lilies and fish. On the surface, it is. But if you were to ask board members why it’s important that the tour be successful, they would reply that it enables a donation to the organization selected as that year’s beneficiary.

For 20 years a portion of the proceeds from the Austin Pond Tour has been given to a group selected by the board and the membership. Monetary contributions have gone to a wide variety of recipients. The APS has supported KLRU in the form of a donation to The Central Texas Gardener, which graciously spotlights the tour each year. The APS is also grateful for its association with the Zilker Botanical Garden and has helped with funding repairs of the Lotus Pond and the Rose Garden Pond.

The APS has also made contributions to community organizations that don’t have a direct connection to ponds and gardens. For instance, The Wright House offers care and compassion to those with chronic illnesses; SafePlace provides support and sanctuary for women who have experienced domestic violence; Down Home Ranch, in Elgin, is a non-profit working farm and ranch for people with special needs and those who share their lives. TherapyWorks rehabilitates horses that have been abused and pairs them with abused children to begin the healing process for both; Marbridge is a private alternative to group homes for mentally challenged adults.

After the fire that devastated Bastrop County, a contribution was made to Bastrop State Park. That same year a donation from the APS was given to the Austin Independent School District’s Media Center for the purchase of materials related to ponding. Two years ago, Gus Garcia Middle School, Perez Elementary, Ridgetop Elementary and Williams Elementary were awarded grants to expand science programs that make use of ponds and native plants. Many other schools have been given koi, water plants and been visited whenever pond advice is needed.

But the APS is hands-on as well, having donated time and effort in actually rebuilding and cleaning ponds at various facilities throughout the Austin area. Besides volunteering during the resealing of the ponds at Zilker Park, members help maintain the pond outside the Zilker Garden Center each month during spring and summer. Members made several trips to Elgin last year to completely rebuild the two ponds at Down Home Ranch, and each spring members participate in an annual pond cleanup there. The APS also gave the ranch a new pond vacuum and plenty of koi.

A year ago, 15 members of the Pond Society participated in a fish rescue at one member’s pond and took about 50 goldfish to the ponds at Dell Children’s Medical Center. This began a dialogue that resulted in the selection of the Healing Garden within the Medical Center as the beneficiary for the 2014 tour. This garden and pond, which is reserved as a sanctuary for young patients and their families is not generally open to the public, Visitors were allowed during the Sunday morning hours as part of the 2014 tour.

In the past year, members have participated in several fish rescues as people have given up their ponds for one reason or another, and APS has found new homes for the many Koi and Goldfish.

This year, a portion of the proceeds from the Pond Tour will be donated to the Austin Police Operation “Blue Santa” in Austin, Texas. Austin Police Operation Blue Santa is a non-profit outreach program run by the Austin Police Department, the Austin Fire Department, Austin Energy, Austin Water Utilities, and the Texas National Guard,

The members of the Austin Pond Society are all looking forward to the tour on June 6 and 7. This year, they will be celebrating 21 years of serene ponds, lovely water lilies, and jewel-like koi; but most important, they will be celebrating 21 years of giving.