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St. Peter’s Gardening Angels ministry rewarded for their labor of love

092611StPeter Terra Verde Award

Members of the Holy Family-St Peter Catholic Church's Gardening Angels ministry team pose around their Terra Verde Green Thumb Award in one of the gardens just outside the church on Sept. 8. Pictured are Father Nate Edquist, Karen Yates, Liz Kaminski, Lorraine Tighe and Andy Sopko. (Back Row) John Cannon, Tom Pavey and Mike Howe. Not picture are Chris Moryl and Tony Wintek. (Bob Wellinski photo)


BY BOB WELLINSKI / NWIC correspondent


      LAPORTE – Holy Family Parish-St. Peter Catholic Church and its Gardening Angels ministry team were recently awarded the Green Thumb Award by the Terra Verde Garden Club of LaPorte.

      “It took us by surprise. That was pretty neat. I didn’t know we were up for it,” remarked Jim Howe, member of the parish group.

      The Gardening Angels ministry began about 12 years ago with its mission to care for the outside of St. Peter church. It currently has seven members who tend to the plants and landscaping. The team meets twice a year for an extensive spring and fall workday. In addition, volunteers take turns weeding and watering throughout the year.

      Howe, who has been working with the group for the past three years, explained the team’s goal is to keep the church looking “vibrant and welcoming.” It was that vibrant and welcoming feel that caught the eyes of the Terra Verde committee.

      “It’s so well maintained. There was color. The gardens flowed with something on all sides, including the lot between the church and the parking lot,” said Terra Verde Club member, Roberta Rice, who also serves as the Green Thumb Award committee chairman.

      Terra Verde is a community service group with members who share a common trait, green thumbs – a natural talent for growing plants. The four-person committee visited 18 locations, residential and businesses, around LaPorte County. The group judged each location using a checklist and a one-to-five-point system.

      In a separate category, the home of Marybeth and Mark Lebo, Holy Family parishioners, was one of three that received the Green Thumb Award in the residential category.

      Rice described the setting as “meticulous,” and said, “They are such a good team, working together. Marybeth does most of the plants and designing while Mark does the lawn.”

      As far as the award given to St. Peter, the Gardening Angels were surprised especially since no one seemed to know who nominated them.

      “I have no idea. I wish we knew who nominated us,” said Liz Kaminski. “Hopefully it’s the bright colors that drew you in from the street. It’s bright, pretty, and well kept.”

      Howe credits Kaminski for orchestrating the eye-catching layout. “She’s our head angel. She’s awesome at planning,” said Howe.

      “I’m a farm girl, so that’s my greatest interest – to be outside. I love being outside and doing outdoor projects,” added Kaminski.

      Kaminski shared the love of the outdoors is a shared passion between all the members. “We’re people who like to play in the dirt. It’s just satisfying to do something productive at the church that also beautifies. We get to be outdoors and it’s a lot of fun,” she said.

      Kaminski was an original member of the Gardening Angels before taking a break from the group for a while and has recently rejoined. She was also a member of the LaPorte City Tree Commission for 23 years before it was disbanded last year.

      Members of the Gardening Angels feel the exterior setting of the church is important. “I think it’s an extension of what’s on the inside,” said Kaminski, pointing out it’s the exterior people see as they drive by or as they pull into the parking lot before Mass.

      The group did a major renovation nearly three years ago following a polar vortex that killed many of the boxwood bushes. The goal was to make it relatively maintenance free. Part of that plan included planting mostly blooming perennials, which come back every year. Although there was a greater initial cost, the group no longer had to buy annuals each year.

      Kaminski confessed one annual, petunias, are her nemesis stating, “I have the worst luck with petunias, they always die on me.”

      Weigelas, hydrangeas, and bowling balls arbs line the south side of the church. Parishioners also donated two weeping crab apple trees, along with a birch tree.

      A courtyard with a memorial cross-shaped brick pathway invites people to pause for prayer. The bricks were sold as a fundraiser for other landscaping projects. Parishioners purchased the bricks and had them inscribed as a tribute to loved ones.

      Now that the labor intensive work is done, volunteers keep busy ensuring weeding and watering are done.

      “It’s not a huge time commitment, a half hour or so. We’re always looking for more ‘angels’ of any age. Many hands make light work,” said Kaminski. “People can do it when they have time, and no skill is required.”

      Still, each member knows that it’s a team effort.

      “I’m just the waterboy. I didn’t do any planting, but I mow and fertilize the lawn and make it look nice,” said Tom Pavey, a lifelong member of St. Peter and the church’s maintenance man.

      “We take as much pride outside as we do inside of the church. I want that to reflect on people as they arrive for Mass,” said Pavey.

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