Despite accusing the Pride Center of stealing their signature event and “strong arming” them, members of the Garden Club showed up last weekend to complete a basic landscaping project on the property.
“We will continue being supporters of The Pride Center. Yes, there is no question we feel the Pride Center unfairly and hastily took our Plant Fair away from us. It boggles our minds that they did this. That is what bullies do,” Vice President of the Garden Club, Paul Durbin, told SFGN. “The leadership of the Garden Club intends to take the high road. We are not going to be spiteful and sabotage or fight against our historically largest fundraiser and public relations event of the year. We will continue to do projects for the Pride Center and continue to make contributions to them.”
Durbin also took issue with SFGN’s headline on its story two weeks ago, “Pride Center Servers Ties With Garden Club Over Plant Fair,” saying it was misleading and stressed that the Club was not going to leave the Pride Center.
“In time we hope the leadership sees that we are an asset to them and will once again become the partners that we have been for the last five years,” Durbin said. “We are the Equality Park Garden Club. We don't want to be the Hagan Park Garden Club, or the Richardson Park Garden Club. We want our gay identity.”
The feud all started when the Garden Club held their annual elections in December and it didn’t go the way Robert Boo, the executive director of the Pride Center, wanted.
“After the recent course of events within the leadership of the Garden Club I have made the decision that the Pride Center will not be collaborating with the Garden Club on the Tropical Plant Fair moving forward,” wrote Boo, in an email obtained by SFGN. “The Pride Center will be facilitating this Center sanctioned fundraising event on our own.”
In response Paul Durbin, the club’s newly elected vice president, cried foul.
“The CEO did not like that the membership of the Garden Club voted by an approximately 50 to 10 margin to change leadership and he did this to punish us for whatever reason,” he said. “The membership of the EPGC did not make this change in leadership only to see us lose our identity.”
He further stated:
“It is our biggest event and our single biggest fundraiser, but almost more important than that, it is our biggest new member recruiting tool. We have a surge of new members after the show concludes,” Durbin said, asserting “It was our event.”
Boo sees it differently.
“That’s their interpretation. The Tropical Plant Fair was Chuck Nicholls’ idea. He approached the center about it,” Boo said. “We supported that fundraising event. And we’re moving forward with it.”
Nicholls is the Club’s past president and started the fair while he was president of the Garden Club. Garden Club members provided support for the event including staffing it. They also managed its Facebook page and owned the domain name. Durbin even provided SFGN with a list of expenses the Garden Club paid to prove they were the original owners it.
Durbin also pointed out that the Pride Center indirectly acknowledged it was their event when they changed the name of the upcoming event on their vendor forms. The original applications called it the “4th Annual A Tropical Plant Fair.” An updated version now refers to the event with a new name, “Equality Park Tropical Plant Fair.”
“We fully supported the Equality Park Garden Club solely because of Chuck Nicholls, previous president and founder,” Boo told SFGN. “He’s a long-time supporter of the Center. And so we did more with the club because of Chuck. Now that Chuck was no longer the board chair, my support of the organization was going in a different direction."
Boo pointed out that while the Garden Club has been nixed from the event, Nicholls would still be involved in this year’s planning. The new plant fair will take place March 26 and 27 at the Pride Center. Boo did tell the Club that they would still be allowed to participate as a vendor.
“The EPGC is more than welcome to participate as a vendor in the plant fair just like any other organization but will not have any role in the organization and execution,” Boo wrote.