Sara L. Stewart RN MSN, President, Executive Director
Sara serves as the executive director actively working in
administrative, labor, and development activities.
Her duties include communications, publications, media coordination, development, public relations, public speaking, volunteer coordination, grant writing, accounts payable and receivable, compliance, and business administration. She serves in conjunction with the garden manager as the hub of communication between the various Unity Garden leaders and collaborators. She also assures the framework of the Unity Gardens is maintained throughout all the gardens and cultivates the collaborative sharing network. She actively secures partners in growing the networks. Her qualifications include 16 plus years in business administration in the community health setting, specializing in third party health care reimbursement and Medicaid. Her recent role as a Professor of Community Health Nursing in conjunction with her research focus on the culture of poverty facilitates her entry into a variety of cultures. Congruent with her role as a public health nurse, Ms Stewart assesses the systems that will promote the health of the community and intervenes through the gardens to assure public access to fresh produce.
Cyndi Kingma, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 for four years, 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 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
Don Inks, Treasurer
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, but maintains a position on the City of South Bend’s Redevelopment Commission Board of Directors.
Tim Emerick 574-237-1144
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, Director (officer) email@example.com
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, then more recently, the South Field Lake Unity Garden. 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 support
Vince Barletto Sr. Project Engineer Cypress Creek Renewables
Mr. Barletto is a +15 year veteran in the construction and development industry, with a focus in electrical engineering. He is licensed to practice engineering in several states, and has project experience in both the private and public arenas. He is currently employed by Cypress Creek Renewables and brings with him 10 years of leading teams through the solar market with projects from coast to coast, including Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands. Vince and his family have been involved with Unity Gardens for many years, whether it be creating “punny” greeting cards, to working at the farmers market to installing Unity Gardens’ first grid tied solar structure. Vince also led the inauguration of new bee legislation within South Bend allowing hives in the city, which was previously outlawed. Mr. Barletto’s vast knowledge of construction, engineering, energy deployment and his natural leadership qualities help create leaders in both his personal and professional environments. It is Vince’s hope that these qualities, coupled with his passion to serve others, will create a contagious mindset to those around him to promote social justice and the overall wellness of their community.
Cara Lupa, 574-286-4579 firstname.lastname@example.org
From the first Unity Gardens gardening 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 kids 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!”
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. Recently, 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.
Micah Niespodziany serves the Unity Gardens as the Welcome Center Manager and Event Coordinator. She found her way here through volunteering in her neighborhood’s satellite Unity Garden sharing her knowledge of growing food from growing up on a farm and tending both vegetable and flower gardens her whole life. When she left the farm for college, Micah attended Ball State University to earn her BA in Secondary English Education and MA in English Creative Writing. She is a fully licensed educator with 13 years of experience teaching at the high school and college level. With this background, Micah works with the interns and employees to empower their problem-solving and critical thinking skills in the garden. She prepares spaces and schedules for events, organizes schedules and information, communicates with donors and partners, teaches classes in the garden, prunes tomatoes and trees, and does all manner of handy-man tasks in the new building. But most of all, she just loves fruits, veggies, flowers, and trees and sharing their beauty and benefits with others. When Micah isn’t at the garden, she is usually reading everything, napping with her standard poodle, Monsieur Fluffy Pants, or skating with her local South Bend Roller Derby team
Emily started with Unity Gardens in 2015, leading the garden at Indiana University South Bend and has been working on organic farms since graduating from IUSB. In Southern Oregon, she managed a network of large gardens that supplied area food banks. As farm manager, Emily uses her unique experience with non-profit program management, sustainability, and organic production farming to help further our mission
Deb Arney ( email@example.com ) grew up as a military brat, moving around the country with her family a lot before finally settling in South Bend. She spent her formative years living on South Bend's east side, graduating from South Bend Adams High School. Married and divorced, it was not long before wanderlust struck. Not able to sit still, she lived in many neighborhoods in South Bend, from Lasalle Park to River Park, before moving her family to California. They lived in the beautiful Central Valley until recently returning to SB.
Deb's passion is helping better individuals and their health through holistic approaches, especially nutrition and physical fitness. This desire drove her to retire from her uninspired retail management career, return to school, attend Indiana University South Bend and earn her degree in Health Sciences. With a focus on Health Promotion and Nutrition, Deb's studies and warrior spirit intersect at fighting food insecurity, which is how she found Unity Gardens.
Coming to Unity Gardens in the Spring of 2021 as an intern, Deb quickly SPROUTED into a leadership position. Combining her love of food, plants, and gardening with her new degree, Deb has BLOSSOMED into the Free Pick Garden and Nutrition Programming Administrator. In this position, you will find her enthusiastically educating families on eating healthy meals with a shoestring budget, advocating for a green and sustainable future food system, and actively reducing this generation's carbon footprint.
After a sweaty day advocating for food justice, Deb is very active, sowing personal seeds of happiness. She takes plant-based culinary classes, builds a health coaching business, and seeks spiritual enlightenment by night. By day, Deb can be found tending to crops in an Enchanted Garden with her granddaughter, questing for unicorns, and championing wicked witch rights.
Alayna (or Lain) began at Unity Gardens as a summer intern in 2021 shortly after graduating from university. In the fall, she transitioned from summer intern to full-time employee. Her desire to work with Unity stemmed from a wish to spend more time outside. Her desire to stay with Unity stemmed from the people met, opportunities gained, and the values Unity Gardens holds, including the belief that everyone should have access to good, healthy, barrier-free, food!
With degrees in Biblical Studies and Philosophy, you would think she would be more at home in a library than a garden, but Lain has found that the garden is slowly becoming her favorite place to be, even if she is still learning the difference between a shovel and a spade!
Mitch Yaciw Garden Manager Mitch Yaciw, Unity Gardens Manager since 2009, first served as a volunteer for over 2 years. Often described as the creative force behind Unity Gardens, Mitch is the “idea guy” behind our framework and the structure of the LaSalle Square Unity Garden. Mitch has helped shape the Unity Gardens into an effective organization, that peaks the interest of many. Committed to the inclusive and educational foci of Unity Gardens, Mitch insisted (and continues to insist) on developing programs that both educate and engage. Mitch has many decades of experience in sales and marketing starting with the family run business; Briteway on the South side of South Bend. In addition to promoting growth in the LaSalle Square Unity Garden, Mitch is also responsible for the Unity Gardens social media, (check out the Instagram too) blog, newsletter, and website materials. Mitch is an Advanced Purdue Master Gardener, a Master Naturalist, Certified in Permaculture, and continues to soak up gardening knowledge.
Cheyenne (or Shay) first became involved with Unity Gardens as an intern in the summer of 2019. Earlier that year, she studied at an urban garden in Colorado focused on reducing food waste and increasing access to healthy food for all. It was here that she first discovered her passion for food rescue, fresh food availability, and community building. Upon her return to Indiana, Shay searched for a way to continue the work she had come to love in Colorado, which led her to an internship through Unity Gardens. Two years later, she found herself back at Unity as a full-time employee. Aside from basking in the sunlight, her favorite tasks include harvesting potatoes and sunchokes, caring for the animals, interacting with the community at the Farmer’s Market, utilizing her artistic flair, and ANYTHING that involves digging in the dirt.
Barb Sutton is a South bend native who grew up on the far west side of South Bend. Barb served as one of Unity Gardens' 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 Barb also serves as the president of the North Shore Triangle Neighborhood Association. We are so grateful to have her working as our accountant! In addition, Barb volunteers as a Docent and Usher at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at Notre Dame.