Neighbors Helping Neighbors: The Dover Benefit Fund Prepares for "Through the Garden Gate"

Members of the Dover Benefit Fund with DA Hayden of Powisset Farm (2nd row, 1st from left) and Mary Crane of the Dover Neighbor's Fund (front row, 4th from left); photo by James Dillon/James Dillon Photography.

People move to Dover because of its excellent schools, tree-lined roads, and expansive open spaces. You only need to live here for a short time to realize citizens of Dover are quick to come to the aid of their neighbors, whether making meals for a family in crisis or helping a senior with yard work. However, sometimes those in need are less visible. Someone may have financial struggles while others may have mobility challenges.

40-year resident Madge Casper has been a beacon of the Dover community, quietly championing causes big and small. She has galvanized legions of community-minded townspeople who admire her brand of “can do” and women’s empowerment. She began her long tenure in community service as Treasurer of the Boston Jr. League’s Show House and President of Newcomers in Dover. As President of the Friends of the Dover Library (FODL) for over 20 years, she raised money to underwrite special library programs and started a rotating art exhibition that continues today. She developed her beloved 31-year Dover Holiday House Tour fundraiser in the 1990s.  
In 2019, Casper and fellow board officers and Dover residents Karen Ketterer, Jan Gardner, Ronda Nicolopoulos, and Kristen Dixon, helped establish the Dover Benefit Fund (DBF) with a mission to raise funds for diverse projects in the Dover community. Supported by a team of directors and volunteers, each year DBF chooses new fundraising projects and charitable recipients in the community. In 2019, the DBF continued the 30-year tradition of the Dover Holiday House Tour, raising $18,000. This funding enabled the Dover Town Library to continue to support the community through its award-winning programs and services. In 2020, the DBF initiated a matching COVID fundraiser with The Wellesley Holiday Boutique to help small businesses and aid the Friends of the Dover Council on Aging (COA) in their COVID relief efforts. In 2022, DBF participated in Dover Days to share the mission and invite others to join the organization.
The next big DBF fundraiser will be “Through the Garden Gate” – A Garden Tour & Marketplace to be held on Sunday, June 11, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. rain or shine. The Garden Tour will include eight unique gardens and a water fountain landscaped plaza in Dover. The Dover Garden Tour will start at the Dover Legion where a festive Marketplace will be held on the same day.

Visitors can shop with a variety of artisan vendors, as well as purchase raffle tickets for the chance to win one of several gift baskets. The Marketplace will also feature a face painter, local food trucks including Captain Marden’s Cod Squad, the Hotdog Wagon, Chubs Ice Cream, and live music with Backwards Hats. A family-friendly event, visitors can visit the Marketplace without a Garden Tour ticket at no charge.

With a focus on inclusion, the event will raise funds to improve accessibility, whether due to a disability or lack of resources. Proceeds from the Tour, Program Book advertisers, Marketplace and raffle will support JB‘s Keys, Powisset Farm and Dover Neighbor’s Fund.

JB’s Keys ( is dedicated to increasing awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) while appropriating funds for quality of life, care, and research; ensuring affected children will have better opportunities during their lifetime. DMD is the most common form of muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscle disorder that causes weakness and loss or atrophy of the skeletal, cardiac, and pulmonary muscles. JB’s Keys to DMD and Powisset Farm will work together to use the funds from the Garden Tour to purchase equipment to further the accessibility of Powisset Farm and Noanet Woodlands.

The Dover Neighbors Fund (DNF) ( is an all-volunteer organization committed to assisting Dover residents in need of one-time temporary financial assistance. DNF receives referral inquiries from the churches in town, from the COA, and directly from Dover residents. All correspondence and grants are done with complete anonymity and confidentiality. The DNF relies upon the generosity of Dover families and businesses to raise funds each year for neighbors in need.

With a total of eight featured gardens and a landscaped fountain plaza, tour participants are sure to be delighted. Many boast fascinating features that illustrate the challenges and innovative solutions the gardeners have used to beautify the spaces. Most were created by the homeowners themselves with some designed by professional landscape designers.

For some of the gardens, scale and topography were design considerations demonstrating what can be done in a small or sloping space. One garden starts on a narrow path around the house where you discover a serene water feature trickling under a walkway to a koi pond. Another garden cleverly brings into play the wooded areas beyond the home to attract wildlife and birds. One of the most unusual gardens on the tour conjures a Zen realm where a collection of conifers and weeping Japanese maples lead to a streaming waterfall and koi pond.

Two gardens along the Charles River are also featured. In one river view garden, the homeowner created raised beds for vegetables and flowers with gravel walkways framed with a picket fence. With expert help, the second gardener solved a few challenges by removing invasive plant species and creating a meadow filled with native plants. Water on the property was channeled into a bubbling brook flowing into the river.

The tour also includes a pollinator garden, a sensory garden full of fragrant herbs, a public waterfall garden, and a lovely flower garden framed by a lushly decorated “she-shed”.
Gardeners and non-gardeners alike will enjoy this rare opportunity to explore and admire private gardens throughout Dover. To purchase Garden Tour Tickets in advance visit: