People with plots in Bellingham's city-run community gardens know that change is in the air, and I'm not talking about early signs of spring.
City officials hope to save money and staff time by having gardeners come up with their own way to administer the gardens. A meeting is tentatively scheduled for the third week of March to begin those discussions in public.
Now there's more change coming.
Bellingham resident Mary Redman, whose foundation funds local community and school gardens, plans to start phasing out that financial support.
"These are start-up funds," she said. "There has to be an end."
Some previous recipients of Redman grants won't receive money this year, but Redman plans to keep funding the Community First Gardens program through WSU Whatcom County Extension for three more years.
Redman said this year will be the last year she donates to Common Threads Farm, a Bellingham program that offers hands-on activities for kids to learn about food and gardening.
Common Threads, which is involved with 14 school gardens throughout Whatcom County, has received $14,000 a year for the past three years from Redman's foundation, said Laura Plaut, Common Thread's founder and director.
"We really glad that we got that leg up and we have no intention of stopping what we're doing," Plaut said. "We just have to work that much harder to identify how we we're going to support that program."
In addition to Common Threads and Community First Gardens, Redman has supported, among others, Bellingham Food Bank's garden, a Sustainable Connections project to help new farmers, and Lydia Place, where Redman funded her first local garden. She plans to keep supporting Lydia Place.
Redman distributed $75,500 in grants in 2012. Other recipients included Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, programs that help low-income people in Pierce County, a Seattle program that helps homeless people, and an arts program in California that helps battered women and children.
Befitting her interest in community gardens, Redman, 62, is personable and low-key. She's grateful that her inheritance from her parents enables her to oversee a foundation with nearly $1.2 million in assets, from which she gives tens of thousands of dollars a year to nonprofit programs of her choosing. Her goal is to give away all of the assets by the time she turns 70.
Redman was born in Michigan and raised in Texas. Her grandfather co-founded a company that, under the guidance of her father, became a national powerhouse making manufactured homes.
She worked for her father's Dallas foundation for awhile, then moved to the Bay Area, where she administered grants at Stanford University and learned about Alice Waters, the Berkeley chef and author who became a national leader in the movement for fresh, locally grown food.
When Redman began looking for a new place to live that was less hectic and less expensive, she heard about Bellingham. She paid a visit, decided "This is just perfect," and moved here 16 years ago.
With her father's support, she organized the Mary Redman Foundation in 2002, but it remained small potatoes until after his death in 2004 and her mother's death a year later.
As Redman pulls back from funding local gardens, she envisions giving money to organizations across the country that link creativity to spirituality, another personal interest.
"True creativity is a natural step in the direction of spirituality," she said.
Redman plans to spend time researching possible new recipients, but don't come knocking with requests that fit her new focus. She doesn't accept unsolicited proposals.
To learn about an upcoming public meeting on the future of Bellingham's city-run community gardens, check the Parks Department website at cob.org, or call the parks office, 360-778-7000.
Reach DEAN KAHN at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2291.