by Dr. David J. Hibler Sr.
On December 9, 2018, the Benson Plant Rescueopens a new window/Community Produce Rescue (BPR-CPR, Inc.) donated $10,000 to OPL toward the purchase of children’s books and educational software. Omaha Public Library Foundation Executive Director Wendy Townley said she couldn’t think of a larger donation given by a local community group. Over the past 20 years, the Benson Plant Rescue has donated over $65,000 to OPL for children’s books, computers and iPads.
The story of how the Benson Plant Rescue started stretches back to 1918 when a heartbroken 7-year-old learned her father had abandoned her mother. Young Charlotte Hauser’s way of coping with this family tragedy was to spend countless hours in the downtown Omaha Public Library.
Flash forward 75 years to an older Charlotte, who decided to give back to the library for all those wonderful moments of peace amidst her painful childhood. To raise money for children’s books, she founded the Benson Garden Walk to show off the midtown gardens of her “dirty green thumb” neighbors and friends. In 1999, a recently retired University of Nebraska-Lincoln English professor, “Dr. D,” and his wife Judy asked Charlotte if she would accept a beginner’s garden on her walk. Charlotte thought that a delightful idea.
Dr. D was charged with digging up the front lawn while Charlotte and Judy planned what to plant. One day, Dr. D noticed a large quantity of stressed plants outside the Osco Drug greenhouse near 90th & Maple. When the manager said the plants were on their way to the dumpster, Dr. D offered to haul them away for free. Some rescued plants were planted in Judy’s garden, and many others were nursed back to health and given away as prizes at the Benson Garden Walk. Thus, quite by accident, the Benson Plant Rescue was born.
In two decades, the BPR has evolved from a part-time, seasonal event to one of the largest volunteer gardening groups in the Midwest. Plant sales now support not only OPL, but also area-wide organic recycling. The organization saves countless tons of plant waste from landfills, and has distributed over 40 tons of reclaimed produce to area nonprofits, food pantries, and refugee families in 2018 alone.
Since 2012, the BPR has developed their site at 7224 Maple Street into a virtual plant paradise with numerous flower beds, a meditation garden anchored by a majestic 125+ year old cottonwood tree, two large alumalite murals on urban agriculture and floriculture themes, and an acre of rescued potted perennials for sale.
Learn more about BPR’s hours and offerings at facebook.com/BensonPlantRescueopens a new window.