Upper Peninsula MSU Extension Master Gardener recognized for 1,000 volunteer hours

Advanced MSU Extension Master Gardener Sue Wanic earns her gold badge for 1,000 hours of service.

three women standing in front of a garden archway
Sue Wanic (center), advanced MSU Extension Master Gardener, is presented her gold badge for 1,000 volunteer hours. MSU Extension consumer horticulture staff Elizabeth Slajus (left) and Rebecca Krans (right) make the presentation. Photo by Kayla Weise, OSF St. Francis Hospital and Medical Group.

Michigan State University Extension Master Gardeners have a passion for gardening. What sets MSU Extension Master Gardeners apart from others who love gardening is their dedication to helping others. Sue Wanic, an advanced MSU Extension Master Gardener from Delta County, is one such volunteer being recognized for earning an MSU Extension Master Gardener gold badge for 1,000 hours of service. Wanic has contributed to many different MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer efforts beginning with creation of the Serenity Garden at OSF St. Francis Hospital and Medical Group in Escanaba, Michigan.

I met with Wanic recently at the Serenity Garden to learn more about this volunteer project’s history. Upon entering, I was welcomed by the sound of gently moving water. This is a very peaceful place. Paved pathways surround the garden and guide you to view assorted colors and textures of various plants. Kayla Weise, director of entity financial OSF St. Francis Hospital and Medical Group, was also on hand to congratulate Wanic on her milestone and stated that they “have a great volunteer team” at the Serenity Garden.

How the Serenity Garden’s seed was planted

Wanic was a nurse at OSF and saw a need for an outside garden area for respite and retreat. There were only a few flower planters near the entrance for both patients and staff to enjoy. Wanic envisioned a serene place, hence the name Serenity Garden. In 2010, she began the planning stages for the garden. The initial money was raised by the staff. In early 2011, they broke ground and that fall, they had a ribbon cutting for the initial Serenity Garden opening.

When asked about her journey, Wanic said, “The Serenity Garden is a private and tranquil respite for our patients, families, visitors and staff to rejuvenate themselves through the healing powers of nature. The Serenity Garden is more than a beautiful garden, it is a place that reflects the mission of our Hospital and the OSF Sisters. Initially, the Serenity Garden was created through contribution through the Hospital Employee Campaign and later funded through community donations. The Serenity Garden was designed by an Extension Master Gardener, Karen Moore, and has been maintained by a team of volunteers that enjoy gardening. It has been my privilege to be the lead gardener since the ground-breaking May 2011.”

Who benefits?

Many benefit and enjoy the Serenity Garden. There are many stories of people’s lives that have positively been touched by the Serenity Garden. The garden is also a remembrance of those lost. The family of a local woman who had donated plants to the garden had a memorial gathering at the garden. There are many memorial bricks located around the garden, and some memorial candles have been placed in remembrance, too.

Staff take lunch breaks or a quick stroll during their breaks. Wanic recently featured the Serenity Garden in the annual Delta County Master Gardener Association Garden Walk to increase awareness and enjoyment of the garden’s beauty. Since Wanic is also an MSU Extension Master Gardener Smart Gardening volunteer, she included some Smart Gardening resources for garden walk visitors to take home with them so they could learn more sustainable gardening practices.

Many partnerships make it happen

As gardeners know, maintaining a beautiful garden takes time and can be a lot of work. Wanic has collaborated with many different community groups to complete and sustain the garden. Three different Eagle Scout projects helped install hardscape components including a decorative white fence, trellis and retaining walls. Community service workers from the county correctional department have also contributed to the project.

Every Tuesday morning, volunteers are invited to help at the garden. Following the one-hour work bee, Wanic provides some snacks and coffee or tea, and volunteers can sit and enjoy the fruits of their labor. It is also an opportunity for individuals to learn more about proper gardening practices by shadowing the existing MSU Extension Master Gardeners who work there. Other seasonal events include a spring planting of annual flowers that provides continual color throughout the season. When perennials need dividing, the extras are offered to OSF staff.

Now, the hospital’s auxiliary oversees the garden and has a mission to maintain its sustainability. Because of Wanic’s volunteer efforts, many more will be able to enjoy the Serenity Garden for years to come. Congratulations, Sue!

Sue Wanic raised bed.jpg
Another view of the Serenity Garden. Photo by Larry Wanic.

Interested in making the first step to become an MSU Extension Master Gardener? Our MSU Extension Foundations of Gardening course can help you get there.

For questions about the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program in the Upper Peninsula, reach out to Rebecca Krans at kransr@msu.edu or Elizabeth Slajus at slajusel@msu.edu.

For all other MSU Extension Master Gardener questions, email us at MSUE.MG@msu.edu.

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