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Latonya Woodson, community outreach manager for Methodist Hospitals, contacted Hobart Garden Club member James Pavelka, and he volunteered his services and the Hobart Garden Club and his church to help as much as they could. Carol Sakalaris RN, diabetes wellness coordinator, had done lectures on healthy eating and wanted to go the next step by having a garden for residents. That's when they contacted the Hobart Garden Club through Laurel Valentino, who knew James. She knew he had extensive training through the National Garden Clubs, Inc. schools of landscape, garden study, environmental and flower show judges training, as well as Jim being a Gold Master Gardener through the Purdue University Cooperative Extension. He wanted to put his valuable gained knowledge that National Garden Clubs, Inc. schools provided to good use. His church, the Northwest Seventh-day Adventist church in Crown Point, Indiana, gave him approval to help out and recruit helpers in the project, as he already had an established junior garden club and high school garden club.


Methodist Hospital CEO Raymond Grady approved $200 for the project. Using several contacts from garden centers in Hobart, Remus Farms and Sappers Garden Center, the club purchased around 800 plus plants of 35 different vegetables and fruits, at a very low discounted price when they heard about the project. James wrote for supplies for the Espoma grant for use of their products. Mr. Harrison, community public relations liaison, read the club’s request and decided it would be a great start to their donation to the "Plant America” project by NGC, Inc.  The project received soil amenity products and garden soil, which was much needed for the roof top garden.


The Veterans Village has 35 residents and 25 of them came out to plant the gardens and learn how to take care of plants. For most, it was their first experience. They began to socialize and became more active and took pride in the garden and the hanging flower baskets. It was very enjoyable to sit out in the afternoon and evening and enjoy the peace and quiet in a garden setting.  They even had a wedding and a city council meeting on the roof top garden. As for the results: 20 of the residents lowered their blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar levels and weight significantly; 10 residents were able to cut down their medications for hypertension and diabetes; 3 residents were able to go completely off their medicine because they were eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise working in the garden, breathing in fresh air, and living a better healthy lifestyle. They liked when “Gardener Jim” came and helped them make indoor herb gardens for use during the long winter to help supplement their diets, and he showed them how to make veggie smoothies and veggie burgers.

Future plans include submitting for other grants from NGC, Inc., Methodist Hospital, and Lake County Master Gardener program to raise money for a green house, composter and tiller.  The residents would then be able to start earlier in the spring to get the garden ready, and also add a new community garden on ground level to grow more vegetables, flowers and fruits to use for the residents, plus the local neighborhood residents.  It would allow them to give back to the community, as Gary is a food  desert.


The wonderful knowledge James gained from NGC, Inc. study courses he passed on to the group. This was the best Garden Therapy project for all involved to see people grow in knowledge and become involved together making friends.  James advice, “Take a NGC, Inc. course and share the great ideas and “PLANT AMERICA – one project at a time”.   


Having the joy of harvesting the last bunch of celery (55 stalks) for thanksgiving stuffing, they also cleaned up the roof top garden and composted plants. They then planted 60 different types of tulips, crocus, and daffodils for a spring garden with the help of HGC member Denise Billdilli. They look forward to starting next year’s roof top garden and expanded street level courtyard community garden. They anticipate starting with a great amended soil due to ESPOMA products and plants raised during the cold winter months in a new green house, and a tiller to start the new garden to help feed the local impoverished community in a desert grocery city. If anyone would like to donate to this project please contact the HGC, at 219-962-2358 or 1034 E. 8th St. Hobart, Indiana 46342-5220 for further information on project.

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