Sara L. Stewart, RN, MSN
Executive Director, Board President
In 2008, Sara saw the need for fresh, barrier-free food in our community and decided to grow a garden. This spout of an idea has grown and spread throughout our region providing opportunities, resources, and life-long relationships. Her passion for connecting people to healthy food and each other keeps her striving to make this "outrageous" idea the standard everywhere.
Mitch is the “idea guy” behind our framework and structure at the main garden. From his beginning as a volunteer in 2009 to his critical role today, Mitch has helped shape the Unity Gardens into an effective organization that engages the community through educational programming, public events, and product marketing. He is also a walking encyclopedia of growing know-how.
Director of Operations
Katie joined Unity Gardens as an intern in 2021. Originally from New York, Katie has been working on sustainable farms for the past four years and has been gardening since she can remember. Following graduation from Notre Dame with a degree in political science and sustainability, she became a full time employee working to maintain the open garden, organize volunteers and manage the summer internship program. As of this year, she will be overseeing all aspects of the day to day at Unity Gardens, as the Director of Operations. This includes our new partnership with the Giving Grove, a national network of organizations working to grow orchards to improve food accessibility, tree canopy, and green space in our neighborhoods.
Emily started with Unity Gardens in 2015, leading the garden at IUSB and has been working on organic farms since graduating. In Southern Oregon, they managed a network of large gardens that supplied area food banks. Emily uses their unique experience with non-profit program management, sustainability, and organic production farming to help further our mission.
Don Inks, Treasurer Board Member – Redevelopment Commission, City of South Bend
Don completed his bachelor degree from IUSB with a concentration in accounting and worked for over 2 years in public accounting with Coopers & Lybrand. He moved to South Bend in 1981 and served as the Fiscal Officer for the Department of Redevelopment. He then proceeded to work with the Department of Community and Economical Development for over 28 years and recently served as the Director of the Redevelopment Commission. Don has been instrumental in guiding the Unity Gardens success through his work in aligning the Unity vision with the city plan. Don joined the board in August of 2010 as an expert in fiscal matters and economic planning. Don is retired from serving as the city of South Bend’s Redevelopment Commission’s President, and maintains a position on the City of South Bend’s Economic Development Board of Directors.
Tim Emerick, Partner - Barnes & Thornburg
Tim is an attorney with the South Bend office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP where he
focuses on assisting businesses of all sizes with corporate and real estate matters. Prior to attending law school, Tim worked as a Certified Public Accountant with Crowe Horwath. Growing up in the very rural community of Argos, Indiana, he has significant experience with gardening and knows first- hand the benefits (and hard work) involved with caring for a garden. Tim joined the Board in 2012 to assist with general business and legal matters. His passion for Unity Gardens was ignited when he learned of the benefits that the gardens bring to our local communities.
Marcia A. McCoy, Secretary Master Gardener, Philanthropist
574 344-3424 firstname.lastname@example.org
Marcia has a history rich in vegetable gardening and has completed her Master Gardening Class. Marcia has also volunteered the last number of years as the AARP regional tax coordinator. Marcia has been instrumental in starting the original Franklin Street Community Garden in 2008 and has been hands on labor for the Unity Garden at LaSalle Square. Her extensive knowledge base on gardening and finance combined with her inquisitive nature makes her uniquely qualified to maintain proper procedures and balance necessary to “grow” the corporation. Her dedication and financial support of Unity Gardens has helped propel new programs that build organizational sustainability.
Cyndi Kingma, Retired Curriculum Developer, Librarian South Bend School Corp
Cyndi is an enthusiastic supporter of Unity Gardens and brings expertise in education, curriculum, gardening, and all things involving nature to the board. She has been a regular volunteer at the Unity Gardens since 2012, organizing the first market booths, testing herb drying, helping with events, and writing the first children’s curriculum, Inch by Inch, a Collection of Gardening Lessons for all Ages, that Unity Gardens currently uses in their children’s programming. More recently, Cyndi developed the recipes for the beeswax hand and lip balms that are currently being sold throughout the community. Cyndi holds a Master of Science in Education, is an Advanced Purdue Master Gardener, an Advanced Indiana Master Naturalist, is certified in Permaculture and has completed the Indiana Watershed Leadership Academy. Cyndi is retired from the South Bend School Corporation as a curriculum developer and librarian.
Cara Lupa, Vice-President: Office Manager/HR & Billing Pediatric Cardiology
From the first Unity Gardens horticulture class, Cara Lupa, Purdue Advanced Master Gardener, has been committed to helping Unity Gardens grow in multiple ways; teaching and volunteering at the weekly gardening classes, helping support the children’s programs, and in volunteering for the fundraising and community building events. Cara’s degree in science combined with years of employment in management, finance, accounting, human resources, and horticulture, will help add new dimensions of expertise to the organization. In her words; “I am very proud to say that I have been a part of Unity Gardens in some way or another for several years. It is such a great way to get out into the community and help educate people on how to grow their own food. Teaching young children about how to grow food is a way to ensure a successful and sustainable future!”
Brent F. Spring Hospitality Administration Program Chair Ivy Tech Community College
Chef Brent Spring has been an avid volunteer and supporter of Unity Gardens in a variety of ways; introducing his students to the realities of locally grown food, leading service projects, teaching cooking classes and helping with chef demos and fundraising events. Previously the President/Owner/Executive Chef FEAST banquets and Catering (2001-2012), Chef Brent comes to sere on the Unity Gardens Board of Directors with broad base of expertise in business management, entrepreneurship, and food health guidelines. His business expertise and knowledge of food guidelines will help Unity Gardens’ next stages of growth. Brent co-hosted a mutual fund raiser: “Perfect Pairings” with Unity Gardens to the delight of both organizations. Chef Brent has demonstrated congruent values to Unity Gardens in implementing service learning and sustainable practices within the hospitality curriculum.
Barb Sutton CPA, Garden Leader, Adjunct Faculty University of Notre Dame
Ms. Sutton has served with Unity Gardens for over 10 years as a garden leader, as our accountant, and as a volunteer. Barb Sutton is a South Bend native who grew up on the far west side of the city. Barb served as one of the Unity Garden’ first garden leaders for years before we discovered she is a CPA with over 30 years of experience in non-profit accounting. Her commitment to Unity Gardens and her community is strong as barf also serves as president of the NorthShore Triangle Neighborhood Association. Barb also volunteers as a docent and usher at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at University of Notre Dame.