National Garden Clubs Inc. welcomes new President

 Shirley Nicolai of Fort Washington, Md., leads largest volunteer organization of its kind in the world
Photo: National Arboretum

Guest Contributor: National Garden Clubs Inc.

ST. LOUIS, August 3, 2011—Shirley Nicolai of Fort Washington, Md., has been named the 42nd president of National Garden Clubs Inc.  A former elementary school teacher who has been deeply involved in NGC-affiliated activities for more than 30 years, Nicolai is also recognized for her environmental activism related to aquatic ecosystems, having successfully submitted one of the first mitigation plans to satisfy Chesapeake Bay Critical Area legislation requirements. 

As National Garden Clubs’ president, Nicolai will spend much of the next two years traveling coast-to-coast to promote NGC causes and projects, seek new ideas geared to current needs, and network with many of the nearly 200,000 members of this far-reaching volunteer organization, one of the largest of its type in the world. 

Nicolai’s role overall is to guide the organization in maintaining its mission: promoting civic and environmental responsibility, as well as a love of gardening and floral design.  In addition, she says that one of her major objectives is to bring more diverse members of all ages into the NGC fold as the organization takes on key issues in today’s difficult times.

 At the convention, Nicolai announced that the theme for her administration would be one of service to members and their respective communities, to support local garden clubs in meeting specific needs.  In keeping with this theme, she is introducing broad umbrella initiatives related to plantings for public places and protecting aquatic ecosystems.

 “The plantings for public spaces initiative is adaptable to current and future local needs and encompasses many of our most successful ongoing projects, including Blue Star Memorial markers and Habitat for Humanity low-maintenance gardens,” she says. “With the aquatic ecosystem push, we hope to encourage our members to develop and implement strategies to safeguard at least one threatened ecosystem in their respective areas.  We know from experience that together, NGC members can create a powerful, synergistic voice that has a significant impact on advancing civic and environmental responsibility and related causes, so critical in today’s world.”

NGC national and international programs include local, regional and national partnerships with other philanthropic or government organizations, including the U.S. Forest Service.  Projects with the forest service include Penny Pines, which raises funds on the state and local level toward the replanting of disaster-struck state and national forests, and the national Smokey Bear/ Woodsy Owl poster contest for school-aged children, which has been a popular fire prevention awareness activity for 50 years.

Plant it in Pink for Breast Cancer Photo by Crescibene@flickr

 Headquartered in St. Louis, National Garden Clubs Inc. ( has a network of 6,300 local clubs, 50 state clubs, a National Capital Area club and hundreds of international affiliates.  NGC offers members extensive educational resources on topics ranging from the many benefits of container and organic gardening to the study of how to attract birds, butterflies and beneficial insects into the garden.

Among current projects are “Plant It Pink,” an initiative that encourages clubs to develop local programs to promote breast cancer education and awareness through pink-infused therapeutic gardens; flower shows; school gardening initiatives for children; and a host of civic beautification and improvement efforts.

Donna Rae is an award winning writer, consultant, planner, facilitator, and coach. One Minnesota organization gave her a coveted ‘Futures’ award. Another named her the 2002 Outstanding Faculty member. She has co-authored five books and numerous articles. She is the founder of the consulting firm Leadership Tools. She asks organizations: “Are your leadership tools as up-to-date as your computer systems?” Read more from Donna Rae Scheffert at Washington Times Communities and Online-Leadership-Tools.

 Donna Rae can also be found on the strength training circuit, wine tasting, at board meetings, guiding her two teenagers, or dreaming about a sunny location to move with her husband after they retire.

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Donna Rae Scheffert

Donna Rae Scheffert is a facilitator, consultant and writer. Find more information online at

She lives in Minnesota with her husband and teenage son and daughter.

Honors and awards include University of Minnesota -Distinguished Extension Campus Faculty Award; Minnesota Rural Futures-FUTURES award; and numerous state and national awards for programs and publications.

Scheffert is an author of practical fieldbooks: Committees That Work: Common Traps and Creative Solutions; Social Capital, Building Leadership Programs, and Facilitation Resources available from

Donna Rae is also a Senior Consultant with and an Associate with

Her civic participation includes: Board Member-Community Action Center; Board Member-Women’s Philanthropic Group, and soccer team coordinator.

Photo Credit: Amber Procaccini

Leadership development expert & educator, Donna Rae Scheffert knows how public action by others for others improves lives - she helps people to get involved and provides tools to propel them toward their goals easier, faster, and with more fun. Read more from Donna Rae at

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