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Master Gardeners Host Community Access Unlimited for Fun and Edification

Community Access Unlimited member Ashley Lasanta (of Westfield) and CAU staff member Jennifer Nacius (left) had a fun time with their Nature’s Paints art project on Saturday, August 16. The Master Gardeners of Union County hosted the event in their Trailside Demonstration Gardens in the Watchung Reservation (Mountainside).  Credits: Photo by Master Gardener T.J. Karns
Master Gardeners James Keane (of Rahway), Laurie Westra (Cranford) and Kenny Ilgivazis (Mountainside) showed off some of the tomatoes that guests from Committee Access Unlimited (CAU, Elizabeth) took home on Saturday, August 16. Credits: Photo by Master Gardener T.J. Karns
Master Gardeners Susan Marino-Jennings (front right, of Mountainside) and Nancy Hayes (back right, of Berkeley Heights) help members and staff from Community Access Unlimited (HQ Elizabeth) plant the celosia flowers that they took home on Saturday, August 16.  Credits: Photo by Master Gardener Ken Ilgivazis

Pride of accomplishment through horticultural therapy was first and foremost the goal on Saturday, August 16, when the Master Gardeners of Union County hosted members and staff from Community Access Unlimited (HQ Elizabeth) in their Demonstration Gardens. The MGs engaged their CAU guests in five horticultural activities, including an insect display and discussion, a seed/vegetable presentation, a Nature’s Paints art project, an herb-garden pizza pin project and potting a flower. A good and productive time was had by all. 

Ten MG volunteers served as guides and teachers. These include Bill Dolan (of New Providence), Terry Gibbons (Westfield), Caryl Hannemann (Berkeley Heights); Nancy Hayes (New Providence); Susan Marino-Jennings, Bridget Mracek and Kenneth Ilgavizis (Mountainside); Karen Mulvihill (Springfield); T.J. Karns (Union); and James Keane (Rahway). MG Coordinator and Union County Agricultural Agent Madeline F. DiNardo was on hand to meet and greet the guests and MG Laurie Westra (of Cranford) coordinated the event. 

CAU participants took home the Nature’s Paints art work and the “pizza pin” that they created, along with their potted celosia flowers.  Each was also given a bag of vegetables picked fresh from the Master Gardeners’ Community Sharing Garden.  The MGs donate all produce grown in their Sharing Garden and their Berry Patch and Herb Gardens to local food pantries and soup kitchens.  Since 2002, the MGs have donated 22,721 lbs. of hardy vegetables, fruit and herbs to help feed the hungry in Union County.   

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MG Westra thanked her team “for the great job done by all on Saturday.  The weather was gorgeous,” said Westra, “and I’m happy that we had an opportunity to share the beauty of the garden and its many aspects with Community Access members and staff.  Hopefully,” added Westra, “we can host CAU visitors again in the future.” 

Community Access Unlimited is a non-profit social service organization that provides quality, person-centered support services throughout New Jersey for people with developmental disabilities and at-risk adolescents.   Founded in 1979 by Executive Director Sidney Blanchard, CAU has served more than 5,000 persons over the past 35 years.  To learn more about CAU, visit their website at

The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County are trained volunteers whose mission is to support land stewardship and disseminate research-based information to the public related to gardening and natural resource management.  The program is part of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County and is supported in part by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.  The Master Gardeners are headquartered at 300 North Avenue East in Westfield.  To become a Master Gardener, call the Extension offices at (908) 654-9854 or visit

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