La Porte County Master Gardeners Recognized in 2015

By: La Porte County Master Gardeners Last Updated: April 29, 2015

master-gardener-logoLaPorte County Master Gardeners held their annual recognition meeting on Thursday, April 16, at Red Mill County Park. After a delicious meal at which members were invited to share their favorite dish, Steve Sass, President of the northern Indiana chapter of INPAWS, shared his ideas about rethinking your landscape. Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS) promotes the use of native plants in local gardens and landscapes to promote habitats and food sources for beneficial insects and other species. Steve asked the Master Gardeners to consider replacing landscape plants not native to our area with those that are well adapted and can contribute to the local ecosystem.

Some of the projects for which Master Gardeners volunteered last year were: gardening with residents at Sharing Meadows, Luhr Park Conservation Field Days for 5th graders, and growing spaces at several local schools that taught school children about gardening. Other projects included: demonstrating heirloom plantings at the Pioneer Heritage Garden at the LaPorte County Fairgrounds and assisting Habitat for Humanity partner families with landscaping their new homes. Altogether, in 2014 the LaPorte County Master Gardeners volunteered over 3,000 hours “helping others grow” in LaPorte County, a benefit worth over $67,000 to the community.

During the meeting, Master Gardeners were recognized for their volunteer work and participation in education activities. Twenty-three interns from the 2014 Master Gardener class were recognized. Included were Sally Alatalo, Three Oaks, MI; Susan Branch, Victor Curbelo, Marlene Frazier, Joanne Gorecki, Frank Humphrey, Sharon Humphrey, Karen Huskey, Sharon Kadlec, Rita Ryder, Nance St. Clair, Michael Sutton, and Sarah Zurek, all of La Porte. Megan Countryman of New Carlisle; Ron Faloon, Mary Freyer, Lisa Gerardi, Aimee Purcell, Nate Wojasinski, and Sue Woodland all of Michigan City. Rubia Jasinevicius, and Vida Kluko both from New Buffalo, MI; Donna Vilser from Long Beach.

Five Master Gardeners were certified after completing at least 35 hours of volunteer service. Included were: Mary Davis of Michigan City; Tina DeWitt of Kingsbury; Patti Lovaas, Debbie Moore and Linda Weigel all of La Porte.

Six individuals were designated Advanced Master Gardeners after completing a total of at least 60 hours of volunteer service and attending a minimum 45 hours of gardening education activities. Those recognized as Advanced Master Gardeners were: Rima Binder, Mary Rooney and Stephen Zolvinski all of Michigan City; Pamela Coker, and Susan Kieffer of La Porte; Jen Kuzdas of Rolling Prairie.

One hard-working gardener, Annette Van Dusen of New Buffalo, MI, 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.

Two individuals achieved the Silver Master Gardener level, having donated at least 500 volunteer hours and attended a minimum of 75 hours of gardening classes. They included Dennis Brittain of Michigan City and Karren Coplen of La Porte.

Two individuals, Nancy Jahnel-Barnes and Barbara Merten of Michigan City have 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. Nancy has served on the Master Gardener Association Board, was the Association’s president, and coordinates a lot of educational activities at the International Friendship Gardens in Michigan City. Barb has served as the project coordinator for helping Habitat for Humanity partner families landscape their new homes and teaching them how to take care of their yards. Under her direction, over 25 Habitat families have benefitted from assistance by Master Gardeners.

Another Master Gardener, Donna Pouzar of La Porte, has volunteered at least 2000 hours and has attended a minimum of 200 hours of gardening education classes to achieve an even higher level of Gold status. Donna has also served as Association president, has helped organize several garden symposiums and edits the Association newsletter, The Latest Dirt, which is published monthly.

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 and link to “Master Gardeners” or