Our History and Mission

February, 2022

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

This is a rather long note, one that I believe I would have appreciated when I first joined All Saints Episcopal Church (ASEC).  Its purpose is to convey the history and mission of our annual Garden Tour, and in separate posts, we will provide information about volunteering opportunities, and how to purchase tickets.

A major mission of All Saints is outreach.  By far, our greatest fund raiser for outreach is the Garden Tour.  Begun in 1987 by the Episcopal Church Women (ECW), we had a Garden Tour before we had a church building.  ASEC, a mission church at the time, was meeting in the Hilton Head High School library.

The garden tour was suggested by Joyce Constantino with ten gardens to be selected by Barbara Hodges.  ECW approved the suggestion which was the first tour of private gardens on Hilton Head Island and near-by Bluffton, and the first fund-raiser for ASEC. The first Garden Tour occurred May 21, 1988, and continues to be held on the third Saturday in May.  Proceeds of the first tour were to be applied to the church building fund as well as community projects.  Meanwhile, the ground breaking ceremony for the new church building occurred in December of 1989.  The first service in the new sanctuary of ASEC was held on Thanksgiving Day, November, 1990. 

In May of 1991, the structure of the Garden Tour within ASEC was established.  The Garden Tour Board (GTB) comes under the supervision of the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry of All Saints.  The GTB decides the recipients and amount given to charities. The Vestry makes the final decision.  

The charities selected vary some each year, but we only give grants to charities with total income less that $650,000.  We would like for our grants to be meaningful to the recipients, and they are.  We have heartwarming stories to tell at another time.  Each year there is a special coffee hour sponsored by the Garden Tour where everyone has an opportunity to meet a representative from the charities who will receive grants that year.

1995 was the first year that 100% of the proceeds were given to outreach.  The tour became a two-fold gift to the community, a gift of beauty and a gift of caring.  The logo “Through the Beauty of a Garden… a Gift to the Community” was adopted that year.  Now every penny netted goes to charities addressing the categories of hunger, homelessness, literacy, or aging.  

The “pennies netted” are substantial.  $27,160 netted in 2014; $26,400 netted in 2015; $31,750 netted in 2016; $29,400 netted in 2017; $25,000 netted in 2018, $34,050 netted in 2019  In all, over $500,00 has been given to charity. If you have ever done fund raising for outreach in other churches, you can appreciate that this is a very respectable accomplishment, one that requires the support of almost everyone at ASEC, and also friends who are not members of ASEC but participate in the effort out of respect for the quality of the garden tour and/or the support of the local charities. 

How do we raise this amount of money from a mere Garden Tour? We are able to do it because the garden tour is more than a garden tour.  It incorporates many parts including:

  • Selecting the gardens.  Obviously a central task, it is no mean feat to find six lovely new gardens each year whose owners are willing to be included in the tour.  The tickets are sold for $35 each which is the largest single part of the income for the Garden Tour.
  • A poster competition by local artists. Each artist submits artwork in any medium, but the theme is gardens or flowers.  The cost to the artist to participate is $20.  In addition the artwork must be available for purchase by the public.  If the artwork sells, 35% of the purchase price goes to the garden tour.  This artwork is displayed at Hilton Head Hospital along the corridor on the first floor with descriptions of the poster contest, the garden tour, and the fact that all the money netted goes to local charities.  A jury of artists judges the artwork, selects six finalists, and among those finalists, a winner.  In addition, anyone visiting the artwork at Hilton Head Hospital may vote for the “people’s choice”.  

In early spring, the six finalists, the winner of the poster contest, and the “people’s choice” winner are all announced at an Artists’ Reception held in the lobby of  Hilton Head Hospital.  All members and friends of ASEC are welcome at this event.  The winning artwork becomes the basis of the poster used to advertise the Garden Tour for that year, and is the front page of the ticket booklet.  If you look along the hallway from the ASEC sanctuary to Gordon Mann Hall, you will see some of the winning posters and finalists from previous years.

In early 2019, we had selected the grant recipients and the winner of the poster contest.  Shortly after the Artists’ Reception, the Garden Tour was cancelled due to the Coronavirus.  We are using the winning art from 2019 in the 2022 poster and as the cover to the ticket booklet. Neil Clark’s Along the Path was the winning water color.

  • Sponsors.  Local businesses purchase advertising space in the ticket booklet.
  • Luncheon – The tour has traditionally included a luncheon served in Gordon Mann Hall.  Canceled in 2022 due to the Coronavirus.
  • Boutique – held in one of the conference rooms in Gordon Mann Hall, the Boutique includes crafts donated by ASEC parishioners and friends, and treasures gleaned by down-sizing or merely cabinet or closet cleaning.  Conveniently located adjacent to the luncheon and outside in the courtyard, easy browsing of the Boutique is available to all participants. Canceled in 2022 due to the Coronavirus.
  • Bake Sale – Yummmm.  Contributions to the bake sale come from parishioners, friends, and from representatives of the charities that receive grants.  Southern cooks display their talent with a variety of sweets and some delectable homemade breads.  All of this is sold at the south end of Gordon Mann Hall to tempt those who are there to enjoy the luncheon. Canceled in 2022 due to the Coronavirus.
  • Premier Party – The major purpose of the Premier Party is to honor the Garden owners.  The Premier Party is open to all parishioners and friends of ASEC.  The tickets are $25 each.  Canceled in 2022 due to the Coronavirus.
  • Donations – Some individuals make tax-deductible contributions to the Garden Tour.  Both business and individuals donate time or expertise or goods.

An effort with this many dimensions did not just happen overnight.  There is a hardworking, experienced Board in place that has evolved over thirty-three years of thought, experimentation, and inspiration.  New participant input is critical to our continued success. And truly, it takes the participation of most members of All Saints plus friends from the community to bring the Garden Tour to fruition.