Seeds of Transformation: A Garden Party At the James Allen Freeman House

Karen and Michael Schneickert’s historic Pasadena mansion on Hillcrest Ave. was the perfect setting tonight for the annual fundraising Garden Party for the Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy, entitled “Seeds of Transformation.”

Perfect not only because of the “transformation” theme: The Schneickert’s home, the 1913 James Allen Freeman House, underwent a three-year restoration prior to its acceptance as a National Trust for Historic Preservation property in 2011. Perfect also because the evening’s honorees, longtime Pasadena philanthropists and community volunteers George and Marilyn Brumder, lived next door for decades.

“Marilyn and George have dedicated themselves to strengthening Pasadena institutions – institutions that hold our democratic society together through education for all, protect the most vulnerable members of society – children, express our culture through music, and preserve our environment,” said Eileen White Read, President and CEO of the Conservancy, in presenting the Brumders with the PCGC’s Founders Award.

Pasadena Mayor William J. “Bill” Bogaard, California Assembly Member Chris Holden, and Pasadena Councilmember Steve Madison spoke about the Brumders’ contributions to Pasadena.

Gala Chair Beth Hansen, a native of La Canada who is CEO of Mallcraft Inc., and her committee worked with florist Mary Devin Starratt on fanciful arrangements of flowers and vegetables on copper-colored silk cloths to complement a farm-to-table menu by Chef Alexandra Poer Sheridan of Alexandra’s Table. Guests enjoyed a private insiders’ tour of the Arthur S. and Alfred Heineman-designed main rooms and the Japanese Tea House, which the Schneickerts added.

Then guests headed into to the Japanese Garden, designed by internationally renowned landscape architect Ron Herman, to dine while listening to the subtle sounds of a flute played by a professor from the Pasadena Conservatory of Music – one of the institutions Marilyn Brumder helped to build – carrying over the rippling water of the koi ponds.

The beneficiary of the Garden Party is the new community garden due to open at the Villa Parke Community Center, located at the heart of Pasadena’s Latino quarter. Thirty mostly Spanish-speaking, low-income families will receive individual subsidized raised-bed plots in which to garden and learn the principles of healthful eating. An additional feature of the Villa Parke Community Garden will be a miniature community garden for 80 pupils at the center’s Head Start program for four-year-olds.

“This project is a unique collaboration amongst the City of Pasadena, L.A. County, and the Conservancy. Families will have the opportunity to grow their own fruits and vegetables in a safe, protected, outdoor environment. I wish to thank each of you for your generous donations, which have helped to make this garden and future community gardens a reality,” said Jessica Korzenecki, Chair of the Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy.

“I wish to particularly thank Karen Otamura and Michael Schneickert for opening their beautiful home and gardens for this event; you give the community a great gift,” she said.

And finally, Jessica noted that “a giant thanks goes to our Trustee Beth Hansen, event chair, her patient husband Rob, and her hardworking committee for all of their efforts in making this a perfect evening.”

The Villa-Parke Community Garden opens its doors on April 26with a Grand Opening ceremony beginning at 10:30 am, to which the entire community is invited.
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