Tanenbaum is a Master Gardener & Master Communicator
After a career in public health and speech pathology, Lee Tanenbaum has become a devoted promoter of a string of nonprofit organizations.
The crowd of gardeners and would-be gardeners began lining up early on the last Saturday in April in Wills Park in Alpharetta for what is called, “Garden Faire.”
The annual event, which is put on by volunteers for Master Gardeners of North Fulton, attracted about 1,700 guests. Most of them had either received an email from the organization, or read about it on Facebook or Linktree, or the organization’s website, or seen it on Instagram. Behind the comprehensive program to get the word out is Lee Tanenbaum, who, for the last dozen years or so, has combined her interest in gardening with a talent for communication.
Since retiring from a career in public health with the Georgia state government and as a speech pathologist in the public school system, Tanenbaum has worked to learn the ins-and-outs of mostly web-based communications programs. For someone who’s been retired for more than a dozen years now, she considers her volunteer work almost like a new career. Over the last three years, she has accumulated 1,500 hours of volunteer service to the gardening program.
“It makes me feel good,” she says. “Knowing that I’m giving back. I mean, at this point in my life, I don’t need a paying job. So, working with other people is a social activity and I just love promotion.”
It’s also been a way to keep supporters of the organization connected during the past several years of the pandemic, when face-to-face programming has been limited. Her work includes overhauling the Master Gardeners education program, which was originally set up for small groups in a classroom setting. Her work in revamping it as a YouTube channel won her an award two years ago from the national master gardening organization.
Over the last several years, the statistics that Tanenbaum keeps paint an impressive picture. Since May of 2020, she has coordinated 46 virtual classes with 26 presenters. They’ve had 6,238 participants on Zoom and another 6,600 on Facebook Live. On YouTube, she counts almost 17,000 people that have viewed the classes.
“All together,” Tanenbaum says, “we’ve had 32,822 people who’ve participated. And we do surveys afterwards, and about 40 percent of the people that turn out for the classes are Master Gardeners from throughout Georgia, the Southeast. I think we’ve hit around 36 states and Canada…with social media you get people come from all over.”
For someone like Tanenbaum, who grew up in an era of manual typewriters, mimeograph machines and dial telephones, using social media as a communication tool has been a rewarding learning experience.
You get some idea of the potential that these new tools offer when you go to the website that Tanenbaum oversees. There, you’ll find links to the organization’s online newsletter, a way to get regular emailed updates of the group’s activities, and articles on gardening that have been written for the Appen Media publications in North Fulton, South Forsyth and Dekalb counties.
Computer-based communication has been crucial to amplifying the message of the nonprofit group. You can connect with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and make a tax-deductible donation through PayPal. There’s also information about tickets for the organization’s next big event, its Celebration Garden Tour of five home gardens of Master Gardeners in Sandy Springs on June 3.
Tanenbaum had done some communication projects when she worked for the state in public health programs, but her interest really grew when she became a volunteer. She did projects for the local Hadassah organization, and for B’nai B’rith, for which she recently helped promote a Holocaust remembrance project at the Georgia Capitol building.
Five years ago, she worked behind the scenes to help start the Atlanta Israel Coalition. The group is a non-partisan, multi-faith effort to promote support for Israel in the local community. One of the highlights of the program is a tour of Israel that includes stops in Judaea and Samaria. The next one is set for this fall.
The founder of the coalition, Cheryl Dorchinsky, is an admirer of Tanenbaum’s communications skills and her passion for the cause of Israel. She credits Tanenbaum with helping to bring a diverse community of supporters that now reach far beyond Atlanta. She finds herself amazed at Tanenbaum’s wide-ranging knowledge of programs like Zoom and various email platforms.
“What she does is magic,” Dorchinsky says, “She has the experience and knowledge to get it all done, It’s almost like it’s effortless.”