What do LaPorte County Master Gardeners do for the community? A whole lot

LaPorte County Master Gardeners held their annual recognition meeting on Thursday, April 4, 2019, at Red Mill County Park. After a delicious meal at which members were invited to share their favorite dish, Bob Bulger of Westville gave a presentation entitled “Gardens Grown by Koi: Turning your backyard koi pond into a decorative aquaponics garden addition.” Bob works for ServiScape LLC, a landscape services company, and has previous experience with several parks. He shared ideas and methods of using a backyard pond as a complete system for growing vegetables hydroponically.

Some of the projects for which Master Gardeners volunteered last year were:

— organizing a Spring Garden Show for the community

— giving gardening presentations at Row Crop Ag Days

— organizing growing spaces at several local schools that taught school children about gardening

buy now — giving gardening presentations during their Brown Bag Gardening Series

— speaking to service clubs and other groups

— demonstrating heirloom plantings at the Pioneer Heritage Garden at the LaPorte County Fairgrounds

— assisting Habitat for Humanity partner families with landscaping their new homes.

Altogether, in 2018 the LaPorte County Master Gardeners volunteered more than 2,900 hours “helping others grow” in LaPorte County, a benefit worth more than $72,000 to the community. buy now  

During the meeting, those who had completed the Master Gardener basic training class last fall and are now Master Gardener Interns were welcomed and introduced to the association. A total of 24 completed the class and passed the final exam, so they can now begin working on projects to log volunteer hours. Included in this new class of interns are Gina Alber, Darla Aldred, Amanda DePoy, Randa Magill, Sue McLain, Julie Rice Zurek, Diane Szynal, Joe Szynal, and Gregory Thoman, all of LaPorte; Deborah Sarver of Hanna; Angela Allison, Michelle L. Bair and Rebekah Podgorski of Michigan City; Jacen Maleck and Maureen E. Sherrick of Rolling Prairie; Sachiko Davis, Sherrie E. Dobrowski, Jennifer Jones, Della Lyle, Jesika Pease, and Karolina Zielinski of Valparaiso; Kathleen Fox of Walkerton; Susanne Hogan of Chesterton; and Nicole Krol of South Bend.

Master Gardeners were also recognized for their volunteer work and participation in education activities.  Seven Master Gardeners were certified after completing at least 35 hours of volunteer service: Michael G. Altman, Sheildia Arnold, Ryan M. Crosslin and Linda J. Hough of LaPorte; Mary Beth Rebedeau Warden of Long Beach; Lisa Gerardi of Michigan City; and Karen L. Sarver of Wanatah.

Five individuals were designated Advanced Master Gardeners after completing a total of at least 60 hours of volunteer service and attending a minimum of 45 hours of gardening education activities: David Morris and Chris Svoboda of LaPorte; Wendy Shafer of Michigan City; George E. Sarver Jr. of Wanatah; and Juanita Hill of New Buffalo, MI.

Three hard-working gardeners achieved the Bronze Master Gardener level this year, having donated at least 200 volunteer hours and attended a minimum of 60 hours of gardening classes: Tina DeWitt of Kingsbury; Debra K. Moore of LaPorte; and Julie Goetz of Westville.

Two individuals, Kitty Knoll and Linda Strain, both of LaPorte, achieved the Silver Master Gardener level, having donated at least 500 volunteer hours and attended a minimum of 75 hours of gardening classes. Kitty has organized Master Gardeners as presenters at Luhr County Park Days for 5th graders. Linda, a retired teacher, has helped organize the Brown Bag Gardening series and has done numerous talks on garden spiders.

Three Master Gardeners, all from the class of 2006, have put in a tremendous amount of time to achieve Gold Master Gardener status, having donated at least 1,000 hours of volunteer time and attended a minimum of 100 hours of gardening education: Ann Klosinski of LaPorte, Dennis Brittain of Michigan City and Eunice F. Conway of Rolling Prairie. Ann and Dennis have served on the association board; Dennis leads many gardening classes at the Michigan City Senior Center; Ann and Eunice have co-chaired the Spring Garden Show; and Eunice makes sure that there are refreshments at all of the meetings.

Sharon Cholewa received Gold Master Gardener-4,000 status for achieving the level of over 4,000 volunteer hours and more than 300 education hours since becoming a Master Gardener in 1998. Sharon has been active for many years with the Pioneer Heritage Garden and more recently has assisted with the Maple Square People’s Gardens and the Brown Bag Gardening series and has written newsletter social media articles on heirloom vegetables.

A special “Golden Trowel” award was presented to Estelle Pawloski for her going above and beyond in efforts to further the mission of the association. She worked with her employer, Meijer Store in Michigan City, to provide tremendous support for the Spring Garden Show. This year she encouraged the store to donate potted blooming flowers for sale and succulent plants to use at an adult crafting table.

The LaPorte County Master Gardener Association is one of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service programs and helps fulfill the state motto of “Helping Others Grow” by training volunteers to promote good gardening and horticultural practices. The association accomplishes this through its volunteers conducting educational activities and projects in the community throughout the year. For more information about the Master Gardener Program or about becoming a Master Gardener, please contact the LaPorte County Extension office at 219-324-9407 or visit www.hort.purdue.edu/mg/.

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