Archive of ‘Volunteer’ category

Kent-Sussex Master Gardeners open application process for Class of 2013

Master Gardener logo

Master Gardener logo

The application period is open for Master Gardener training in Kent and Sussex counties. Master Gardeners enjoy gardening, have gardening experience, want to learn more about gardening and have a desire to help others in their community. Following an intensive twelve-week training program with day-time classes alternating between the two county Extension offices, the trainees volunteer a minimum of 45 hours during their first year before becoming official Master Gardeners. Training is held every other year in the fall. Classes for the Class of 2013 will begin in September (right after Labor Day and completed before Thanksgiving.

Master Gardeners are working volunteers and are supported by Delaware Cooperative Extension through the University of Delaware and Delaware State University Extension offices.Master Gardeners are part of a vibrant community of individuals dedicated to growing a greener Delaware, with a more bio-diverse and sustainable environment. They extend the home garden outreach of Delaware Cooperative Extension, staffing garden “hotlines” for much of the year, offering information at events such as community fairs, festivals and farmers’ markets, talking to local civic groups and working with youth groups and schools. Many provide workshops on favorite garden topics and are available through a speakers’ bureau to make presentations for community groups upon request. A dedicated group of puppeteers in Sussex County perform an educational version of “Peter Rabbit” to the delight of children of all ages.

There are many opportunities for volunteers. On May 4, for example, Sussex County Master Gardeners will have an information table at the Antique Market at Silver Hill to be held at the Parson Throne Mansion, 501 NW Front Street, Milford; another information table as well as a display of Accessible Gardening tips and tools at the Gardening for the Bays Native Plant Sale at the James Farm Ecological Preserve on Cedar Neck Road in Ocean View from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; and will present their award-winning Peter Rabbit puppet show at Crossroad Community Church’s annual May Fair at 20684 State Forest Road, Georgetown, where there will also be a presentation on Vegetable Gardening in Containers.

Tracy Wootten, horticultural agent for Sussex County, said, “Without these wonderful volunteers, Cooperative Extension would not be able to provide the impressive amount of outreach that is being offered to local Delaware communities.”

The training program includes formal lectures, discussion sessions, tours, workshops, and problem-solving sessions. Advanced training opportunities include state, regional and national workshops, lectures at monthly business meetings, special training sessions, and the shared experiences of a group of skilled, experienced gardeners.

The application can be found online at
Send completed applications to: Kent County Extension Office, 69 Transportation Circle, Dover, 19901.

All applications must be received by June 1, 2013. Class size is limited. All applicants must attend a reception on June 20, 2013, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Kent County Extension Office. If accepted, you will be notified by letter and will receive further information about classes. It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin. The Delaware Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program is provided in coordination with the University of Delaware and Delaware State University.

For more information, contact Tracy Wootten or Tammy Schirmer in Sussex County, (302) 856-2585, ext. 544 or Maggie Moor-Orth in Kent County, (302) 857-6426, or  the University of Delaware Paradee Center Kent County Extension office at (302) 730-4000.

4-H youth, local library inspire “Pick Up Laurel Day”

An overcast day with a good chance of rain didn’t stop 35 motivated volunteer members of the Laurel community who gathered to help “Pick up Laurel.”  The rain held off, helping volunteers efficiently span out across designated sectors of the historic town on Saturday, March 16. Their mission – to clean up the crumpled cans, paper and discarded bric-a-brac that had collected on curbs, sidewalks and other public areas.  Two hours later, 22 bags were filled with trash and hoisted away– giving the small town of Laurel that extra sparkle it needed and deserved.

Pick Up Laurel is a two-part community project sponsored by the Laurel Public Library, Laurel Chamber of Commerce and Laurel Historical Society in partnership with the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Engaging Youth, Serving Community (EYSC) project in Laurel.

Engaging Youth, Serving Communities is a service learning program.  Youth and adults learn about an issue, bring it to the community for discussion, and then do something about the issue.  On Saturday, March 16, a great deal was accomplished.  The second part, Walk Laurel, is a update of the Laurel Historical Society’s Walking Tour of Laurel Brochure, which will be premiered at the upcoming St. Phillips Strawberry Festival May 21.

Pick Up Laurel Team ready to go!

Saturday morning, volunteers were greeted by the EYSC team, signed in, and were given “Geek the Library” T-shirts to wear before being divided into small teams.  Litter can assume many forms and can carry risks – so safety precautions were reviewed. Each team received gloves, a supply of bright green trash bags, a first aid kit and bottled water.

Dr. Bill McGowan a UD Extension community development agent and the project’s coordinator opened the event and thanked everyone for donating their Saturday and participating in the cleanup effort.  He complimented the group, in particular the Laurel Library, for beginning the conversation that resulted in the pickup plan. Before embarking on their civic mission, McGowan urged the volunteers to take in more than just trash, urging them to look beyond their target paper, plastic and tin and embrace the charm and unique characteristics of Laurel. “It’s a great town with a lot of history,” McGowan said.  “You have a note pad! Use your camera! Tell us the story. Look at the houses, enjoy yourself. Take pictures of the good stuff. It’s not just about the trash.”

Leaving from their central location at the Laurel Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center (train station) volunteers ventured outward, equipped with maps that marked out sectors and significantly littered “hot spots.”  Groups quickly filled their first supply of trash bags and called into the Chamber for reinforcements.

While they walked the neighborhood, the teams noted potential issues that might need attention, such sidewalks and storm drains that need repair. One group the Friends of Trap Pond, tackled a small ravine on 6thStreet near Rossakatum Branch and filled two bags with litter.  Another encountered the first snake of the season – a garter–and braved on with their clean-up efforts!  Another group realized just how close the sidewalk is to the very busy West Street.

A hot spot in Laurel gets some attention

With a combined 70 hours of work, the community effort had amassed a small mountain of lime green bags and covered six of their targeted 12 sectors.

Wendy Roberts, director of the Laurel Public Library, thanked the volunteers for their hard work.  “Laurel is a better place because of you!” she said.  Don Dykes, Laurel Chamber executive director, suggested, “Maybe the service clubs in Laurel could adopt a section and pick up Laurel every quarter!”  Laurel Mayor John Shwed, who could not attend, sent along his appreciation, “I congratulate all on volunteering their time and effort to clean up the Town of Laurel.  If I did not have this other previous commitment I would gladly join you.”

A good morning’s work!

McGowan acknowledged the following organizations, companies and individuals for their support and sponsorship: Eva Dupont of ServPro of Sussex County.  ServPro signed on as a corporate sponsor providing a truck and supplies for the pick-up, pizza for the volunteers and joined the clean-up.  Jay Hall and Amanda Brown from the Delaware Department of Transportation and Mike Love, UD Extension safety agent and member of Safe Kids Sussex County provided safety vests, and Glenn Stubbolo, volunteer coordinator for Delaware State Parks for guidance and most importantly the Youth Helping Community team: Jerrica Robertson, Samantha Purnell, Darlene Murat, Cindy Murat, Kimmora Tatman and Brandon Bradshaw.

Pick up Laurel Day emerged from a town conversation sponsored by the Laurel Public Library during the “Geek the Library” initiative.  In the conversation the opportunity to start a 4-H program Engaging Youth, Serving Communities emerged.  Wendy Roberts and Dr. McGowan agreed to establish the program.  Laurel youth identified Town Appearance as the primary issue.  The group developed a discussion guide that offered three ways to approach the town’s appearance; Safety, Economic Development Opportunities and Pride in our Town.  The youth team hosted and led the forum attended by approximately 20 people including the mayor, council president, chamber of the commerce and citizens.  The discussion was lively with taking pride in our town certainly the most energetic topic.  After the conversation, the group decided to focus on two projects, Pick up Laurel Day and a Walk Laurel brochure.

Over two months of weekly meetings youth and adults developed a plan to identify and solve problems.  They created a supply list and budget, met with the executive director of the Chamber, they walked Laurel and took pictures, looked at houses and parks for areas that needed special attention, they divided Laurel into sections for clean-up, developed a poster and recruited volunteers. Through these combined efforts, “Pick Up Laurel” was ready for launch.

“All good work starts with a conversation,” McGowan said. “We are here today because successful communities know how to talk about what is important to them and then do something about it.”

Two small town forums hosted by the Laurel Public Library sparked this activity.  Putting words into action is what distinguished this community effort from other organized clean-up activities.

Kent and Sussex Cooperative Extension offer Master Food Educator training

Have you ever heard of the Master Gardener program?  While the Master Gardeners offer information about best practices in gardening, the Master Food Educator program is for individuals who have an interest in nutrition, food preparation, health, wellness and the education of youth and adults.  Whether you are a foods or nutrition professional or an individual without professional training  Delaware Cooperative Extension educators will provide participants with the information and training needed to help  expand the nutrition education efforts of University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.  The volunteers work in local communities and with organizations assisting with the ongoing initiatives of our organization.

Since the inception of the program in New Castle County, Master Food Educators have staffed educational displays at locations such as the Delaware State Fair, Ag Day, health fairs and expos at schools and businesses.  Additionally, Master Food educators have assisted with or conducted workshops or demonstrations on topics such as food safety, foods selection/preparation, nutrition and diet and stretching your food dollar.  They have also offered school based educational program and assisted with the development of new educational resources.

Registrations are now being accepted from individuals who are interested in becoming Master Food Educators. Training for volunteers from Kent and Sussex County will be offered Tuesdays and Thursday mornings from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. starting on Tuesday, Jan. 29 through March 7, 2013. It is open to the public without regard to race, color, sex, handicap, age or national origin.  The training is free in exchange for a commitment of 40 hours of volunteer outreach in the community. Programs will also be offered in Newark for New Castle County residents.

Courses are open to the public without regard to race, color, sex, handicap, age or national origin. The Master Food Educator program provides participants 30 hours of training in the areas of nutrition, diet, health, food safety, food selection and preparation. Cooperative Extension is looking to those who would be willing to take the course and then volunteer 40 hours of time over the next year. Volunteers can choose how they give back time but suggestions might include assisting with the presentation of workshops such as Dining with Diabetes, Eat Smart for a Healthy Heart, Stretching Your Food Dollar and others or participating in other public programs sponsored by Cooperative Extension.

Individuals who are interested in nutrition, diet and health issues, want to learn, would enjoy working with and helping others or want to be affiliated with a professional organization are perfect candidates for this program.  Applications must be received by January 18, 2013. Classes will be conducted at UD’s Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown.

For more information about this training and to obtain an application please contact:

Kent County – Kathleen Splane (302) 730-4000 or,

Sussex County – Anne Camasso  (302) 856-7303.

Information and the application are also available on the Master Food Educator Volunteer Program website:

UD Blue Hens Can – southern Delaware drop off locations

The UD Freshmen Class here in Georgetown and Sussex County Master Gardeners are working together to promote the Blue Hen’s CAN campus-wide food drive to benefit the Food Bank of Delaware.   I am inviting staff to participate.   If you participate in the food drive, drop off your items with Tammy and register for the three prizes that will be given away as part of the event.   We will need items by 12 noon on Friday, Nov. 16 to get your names up to Newark and entered in the drawing.  The students have decided to collect food items until Tuesday, Nov. 20., if you do not make the Nov. 16 deadline. (collection bin located in the master gardener office).
Individuals who donate will be entered to win:
UDairy Creamery ice cream gift basket;
Authorized Campus St
$100 iTunes gift card from UD’s Apple store; or
Wool blanket, made from wool of UD sheep, a $100 value
This link below will take you to the UDaily article about the Blue Hens CAN food Drive in Newark.  Suggestions for items needed:
•           Canned sweet potato or yams
•           Canned corn, green beans, peas or mixed veggies
•           Cranberry sauce
•           32oz shelf stable milk or instant milk
•           Boxes pudding
•           Canned pumpkin
•           Turkey roasting pans
•           Pie crust mix or gram cracker crust
•           Canned or jarred fruit, including applesauce
•           Family sized juice can/bottle or mix
•           Coffee, tea or coco mix
•           Family sized breakfast cereal or oatmeal
•           Pancake mix with syrup
•           Canned meat or family sized canned ham
•           Cornbread mix or other bread/muffin mixes
•           Canned or packets of gravy
•           Stuffing
•           Instant mashed potatoes
•           Macaroni & cheese
Please feel free to invite others you interact with to participate.  There is information on a yellow sandwich board in the lobby and flyers by the mailboxes. 
Thank you for your consideration.  I appreciate your support of the Food Bank of Delaware, Sussex Master Gardeners, UD freshmen students here in Georgetown and those who are hungry here in Sussex County.

Extension cultivates a new crop of Master Gardener volunteer experts

September is often associated with going back to school and at the Kent and Sussex Cooperative Extension locations, 28 individuals from a variety of backgrounds and communities are opening their study materials, taking notes and being attentive students of the Master Gardener Class of 2011. Under the tutelage of Extension staff and scientists from the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, Master Gardener candidates undergo seven weeks of training, and receive more than 80 hours of instruction in the process.

Maggie Moor-Orth, right, passes out some questions to the 2011 class of Master Gardeners. The new class meets alternatively in Dover and Georgetown.

Although there is no tuition per se, Master Gardener applicants undergo a review process and must commit to serving a minimum of 45 hours of community service their first year as horticulture volunteers.  In subsequent years they are required to serve approximately 35 hours.  It’s turned out to be a good bargain for Delaware and Cooperative Extension. Gardeners are known for their generosity and Master Gardeners relish giving back.  In 2010,  Kent County and Sussex County Master Gardeners provided a combined a total of 10,172 hours of unpaid services to their communities that included operating garden hotlines, establishing a presence at local fairs and festivals, talking to local civic groups, presenting workshops on specific topics, and working with youth groups and school children.

Each member of the new class contributes a unique curiosity and enthusiasm. The native and adopted Delawareans offer a variety of active and retired professions, which include a Washington D.C. police lieutenant, nurse, professor, aerospace engineer, house builder, a farmer’s daughter, reporter, editor and pastor. Many have a specific area of interest, such as roses.  Others admire English gardens – all struggle with weeds (don’t we all!) and each has a curiosity and respect for the many styles, themes and mysteries that can comprise a garden.  The breadth of their experiences and observations is just what Cooperative Extension is looking for says Tracy Wootten, Sussex County’s horticulture agent.

“In Master Gardeners, we are looking for people who are problem solvers, enjoy teaching others and who will help advise the gardening public here in Delaware,” says Wootten. “Maggie Moor-Orth (DSU) and I are enjoying the enthusiasm of this new class.”

Master Gardener students take notes as UD's Extension Specialist Gordon Johnson reviews the basics of botany.

While in session, as questions are answered and experiences shared, the student Master Gardeners learn to access the unbiased resources that have been the hallmark of Cooperative Extension. The  agriculture-based research from the University of Delaware and Delaware State University is delivered to Master Gardeners via a variety of methods; a network of Extension publications, internal fact sheets, field research and personal instruction. During the seven week instruction program, students are taught by the experts and have the opportunity to form professional relationships that will support them in their volunteer career. Veteran Master Gardeners contribute to the training and join UD and DSU experts  in covering diverse topics such as the elements of botany, plant identification, turn management and weed control, diagnosing plant problems, pesticide safety, integrated pest management, house plants, vegetable gardening, annuals and perennials, backyard composting and much more.

After they finish class instruction and log in their initial 45 volunteer hours, the 2011 class of 28 students will officially join the ranks of more than 200 active Delaware Master Gardeners who impact Delaware’s environment and provide valuable economic services to Delaware gardeners. Instruction for new Master Gardeners are scheduled every other year with Extension offices trading locations. The next session for Master Gardener training will be in 2013 in New Castle County.

“Without these wonderful volunteers, Cooperative Extension would not be able to provide the impressive amount of outreach that is being offered to local Delaware communities,” says Wootten.

For more information about the Sussex County Master Gardener program please visit their SC Master Gardener website or call (302) 856-7303.

Sussex 4-H celebrates ‘excellence’ in volunteer leaders

At a recent Sussex County 4-H Leaders’ Meeting, Delaware 4-H and Sussex County staff and members recognized Kathy DiSabatino of Frankford, and Bo Waller of Georgetown, as Sussex County recipients of the 2011 4-H Salute to Excellence Award.  The National 4-H Salute to Excellence is supported by National 4-H Council and is sponsored by the Monsanto Corporation.

Kathy DiSabatino, right, 2011 Sussex County Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer and Bo Waller, left, 2011 Sussex County and Delaware 4-H Volunteer of the Year, receive congratulations from Ernie Lopez, Delaware 4-H volunteer coordinator and Extension specialist, at a recent 4-H Leaders' meeting.

Each year, through the submission of heartfelt essays authored by their 4-H volunteer peers, individuals are nominated for excellence in 4-H volunteer service and are sent to the Delaware 4-H Office who determine the finalists for the county and state honors.  The 4-H Salute to Excellence recognizes exemplary service in two categories – “Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer” for service over 10 years, and “Volunteer of the Year” for individuals who have served as 4-H leaders for 10 years or under. In Delaware, a total of six county winners have the chance to represent Delaware as a state winner. In addition to his county honor, Bo Waller was also named 2011 Delaware 4-H Volunteer of the Year.

All 4-H volunteers are treasured assets of the Delaware 4-H program. With more than 120 volunteers to rely on, Sussex County 4-H staff readily concur that their volunteers are “the engine that runs the successful 4-H program.”

For the past 18 years, Kathy DiSabatino has been a 4-H leader of the Lord Baltimore Helping Hands which serves the greater Delaware southeast communities of Ocean View,  Bethany and Frankford.  An elementary school teacher, DiSabatino’s dedication to education made her a natural for 4-H’s experiential learning programs. DiSabatino first became involved with 4-H as a parent of two young 4-H members. With more than 140 project areas to choose from, DiSabatino gravitated to leadership in 4-H’s Clothing and Textiles and Food and Nutrition projects.  Subsequently, DiSabatino became a co-organizational leader of the club, a member of the 4-H alumni organization- Sussex Order of 4-H Links, a representative of Delaware 4-H during a unique exchange trip with students in Bosnia/Herzegovnia, and much more. As her nomination letter sums up, “her tenacity, faith, organizational and interpersonal skills, and love of youth development have been the cream that has made her rise to the top.  Problem solver, excellent role model, dedicated 4-H leader- Kathy DiSabatino is a great example and very deserving of the 2011 Salute to Excellence Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award.”

Bo Waller’s dedication to 4-H is multi-faceted, providing Sussex County 4-H youth with a positive role model and enthusiastic cheering section for 4-H’s wildlife, ecology, small animals and fishing projects.  Waller synthesized all of these interests into the formation of a new Friendz, Finz, Furz and Featherz 4-H Club. Waller is also a certified archery instructor and teaches 4-H archery on a regular basis.  If it involves the outdoors, Waller is usually involved as well!  Waller also serves as organizational leader of the Clover Knights 4-H Club in Georgetown, and is a committed parent-partner in the 4-H Bike Club and teaches several wood science workshops at the county and state level. His endless zest for 4-H is matched by an equally bottomless reserve of green energy – the four-leafed clover kind.  As his nomination noted,”Bo Waller is a treasure for our county, for our state and for the national 4-H program.” Waller is the facility manager of the Carvel Research & Education Center and is instrumental in the set up of many 4-H events.

DiSabatino and Waller’s nomination letters were released in a recent 4-H newsletter.  Please read more about Kathy DiSabatino and Bo Waller here: STE_bio

4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship and life skills. 4-H is a part of the Cooperative Extension System. Delaware 4-H is supported by University of Delaware and Delaware State University. 4-H welcomes the participation of all individuals. No person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex. disability, age or national origin.  For more information about becoming a part of Delaware 4-H please visit their website:


Delaware 4-H to host regional volunteer forum

On Aug. 6, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell promoted volunteerism with an announcement encouraging Delawareans to nominate outstanding volunteers and offering resources to encourage new volunteers.

Delaware 4-H has long recognized and valued its dedicated volunteers. 4-H volunteers, known as leaders, are the engine behind the success of 4-H in Delaware. 4-H curriculum boasts more than 130 project areas and delivers them with the support of Cooperative Extension at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University.

As a direct result of volunteers, more than 64,000 Delaware youth in traditional 4-H clubs, day and overnight camps and afterschool programs have been exposed to the benefits of public speaking, robotics, biotechnology, textiles and clothing, art, performance, animal and plant science, photography, food science and promotion of healthy lifestyles, just to name a few.

As the 4-H curriculum continues to expand, so do the opportunities for those wishing to volunteer in service of Delaware youth.

On Nov. 4-7, in Rehoboth Beach, 4-H will serve as host for a 13-state regional volunteer forum. The weekend forum, held at the Atlantic Sands in Rehoboth, offers training for new and established leaders. Volunteers have the opportunity to network, train in specific content areas and recognize excellence through the annual Salute to Excellence awards program. Regional forums are rotated every two years, so this is a special weekend for Delaware 4-H volunteers as Delaware is not anticipated to host again for another 26 years or so.

In addition to the regional forum, one-day state training forums are rotated every year in each county. New Castle will host the 2011 Delaware 4-H Leader Forum in January.

Both forums are open to new and existing 4-H volunteer leaders. As volunteer educators, Delaware 4-H leaders complete a criminal background check. Each leader is considered to be a highly valued member of the Delaware Cooperative Extension team. The public is welcome to join the 4-H and Extension family as participating members or as volunteers.

For more information, contact Ernie López at (302) 856-2585, ext. 544, or visit the Delaware 4-H website.