Debra Heleba and Lisa Chouinard of the UVM Extension Community Horticulture Program recently received the Ellen Rowe Community Development Award. This annual Extension award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in the field of community development and commemorates Ellen’s 50 years of service, by recognizing employees whose efforts personify her commitment to excellence in outreach, education, and community engagement.
Heleba and Chouinard train, support and manage the Extension Master Gardener (EMG) and Vermont Master Composter (VMC) volunteers throughout the state. These volunteers provide science-based gardening and backyard composting education and outreach in Vermont’s communities. This duo supported 465 volunteers in 2022 (358 EMGs and 107 VMCs) whose efforts reached every corner of Vermont. Heleba coordinates all the training for the volunteers, and both provide constant and thoughtful support as the volunteers engage with community members on a wide range of gardening topics.
Heleba and Chouinard annually train and support the statewide gardening helpline volunteers. As a result, the helpline answered a record 1,069 gardening and composting questions from Vermonters in 2022 using trained volunteers located throughout the state. Additionally, the program conducts therapeutic gardening programs for vulnerable populations, teaches kids how to grow food, conducts garden demonstrations at local libraries, and answers questions at public events.
The UVM Extension Master Gardener team’s efforts have improved the lives of countless Vermonters. Heleba and Chouinard are passionate about the program and about building community capacity in the state through science-based information, hard work, and strong teamwork. Heleba has served Extension for 33 years and Lisa for 30 years.
Recipient’s names are placed on a plaque in Morrill Hall. Heleba and Chouinard will receive a professional development allocation of $500 to be used in the subsequent fiscal year. The team will use this award to help defray costs to attend the next national Master Gardener Conference in New Mexico.