LaPorte County Recognizes Master Gardeners

La Porte County Master Gardeners held their annual recognition meeting on Thursday, April 5, at Red Mill County Park.

After a delicious meal at which members were invited to share their favorite dish, Marcy E. Dailey, a Master Gardener-Gold level, recited her poem Composting 101 before a presentation was given by Vincent Sherman, compost site coordinator for the Solid Waste District of La Porte County. Mr. Sherman described the process used to change yard wastes and tree trimmings into usable mulch and compost for landscapes and gardens. 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 and organizing growing spaces at several local schools that taught school children about gardening.

Other projects included: 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 La Porte County Fairgrounds and assisting Habitat for Humanity partner families with landscaping their new homes. Altogether, in 2017 the La Porte County Master Gardeners volunteered over 3,500 hours “helping others grow” in La Porte County, a benefit worth over $85,000 to the community.

During the meeting, Master Gardeners were recognized for their volunteer work and participation in education activities. Ten Master Gardeners were certified after completing at least 35 hours of volunteer service. Included were: Joanne Gorecki, Dave Morris and Chris Svoboda of La Porte; Laura Henderson, Brian Kanyer, Roxann Lucas, Estelle Pawloski and Wendy Shafer of Michigan City; Gayle Gross de Núñez of Knox; and George Sarver, Jr. of Wanatah.

Three 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.

Those recognized as Advanced Master Gardeners were: Megan Countryman of New Carlisle; Julie Goetz of Westville; and Paula J. Nevers of Portage.

Four 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. They included Dan Blakley and Susan Kieffer of La Porte and Mary Davis and Stephen Zolvinski of Michigan City.

Two individuals, Corie Elliott of Beverly Shores and Carol Lerner of La Porte, achieved the Silver Master Gardener level, having donated at least 500 volunteer hours and attended a minimum of 75 hours of gardening classes. Corie assists with the Lake Hills STEM Elementary project and has assisted with the Spring Garden Show, Farmer’s Market Q&A tables and programs at Friendship Botanic Garden and Lubeznik Center. Carol, one of the charter Master Gardeners from 1996, has given programs at Luhr Park, the Spring Garden Show and the Brown Bag Gardening series and has been a regular volunteer staffing the Garden Hotline.

One individual, John Connors of New Carlisle, has put in a tremendous amount of time to achieve Gold Master Gardener status having donated at least 1000 hours of volunteer time and attended a minimum of 100 hours of gardening education.

John recently took the lead on constructing a shed for the Master Gardeners at the Pioneer Heritage Garden. He has also served as a La Porte County Master Gardener Association Board member.

Sharon Cholewa received Gold Master Gardener-3000 status for achieving the level of over 3,000 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 articles on heirloom vegetables.

The La Porte 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 La Porte County Extension office at 219-324-9407 or visit

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