It Takes a Village

We believe that parental, family and community involvement is critical not only in the development of our children’s well being and spirit of cooperation, but also in creating a healthier society as a whole. Growing Places is entirely run by volunteers; aside from the occasional consultant, there is no paid staff.

Growing Places is entirely what families and friends, and members of the Dansville community have made of it.

Following is an extensive listing of the various means of community support in terms of service and contributions; and while we endeavor to keep these acknowledgements as comprehensive as possible, the oversights are many!! For this we apologize and invite you to help us minimize the omissions

Advisory Board Past and Present1929722_10212139159_728_n

The Advisory Board is the rock solid foundation of Growing Places. The level of involvement and turnover of our board members varies, depending on the duties and willingness to carry them out. Some of our people provide the expertise required to reach a specific short term goal before moving on after a year or two, much as an annual or biennial is used to fulfill a current desired effect in the garden. Other people commit for a longer stretch, seeing that yearly traditions are well established, in the way that perennials serve to create a framework for the garden. Each member has played a specific, critical part in the overall metamorphosis and splendor of Growing Places.

Amy Mehlenbacher (2001-2002) a life long resident of Dansville, has a great love for this community and truly believes that Growing Places adds much to the quality of life in Dansville. She brings a wide range of business administrative skills including accounting, marketing, customer service/satisfaction, clerical skills, and human resources capabilities to her volunteer position as administrative coordinator to Growing Places. Two of her children have attended the preschool enrichment program at Growing Places.

img176Mary Castor (2001-2003) lived in West Sparta and worked at Noyes Memorial Hospital as an information specialist in the lab. She was a locally renowned artist and lead teacher in our art classes. She enhanced the quality of our program by volunteering to teach numerous watercolor classes for children and women. Her murals grace the walls of Growing Places. Her paintings have been on display at the annual Genesee Valley Council on the Arts Member Show, the inaugural show at the Main Street Gallery in Geneseo, and at the Visitor Center at the Mt. Morris Dam. Her three children were involved with Summer, Preschool and After School Programs from program inception in 1995. Mary passed away in July 2010, and is sadly missed by all who knew her.

Alison Mosca (2001-2004) lives in Dansville with her husband and three children. She formerly taught gifted and accelerated math programs for children grades 3-6. She feels it is important for young children to have many various experiences including art, music, nature activities, and learning respect for themselves and others. Her twins attended the preschool enrichment program at Growing Places, and she was instrumental in coordinating early play groups, the Parent Center and its activities at Growing Places Enrichment Center.

Susan DeMuth (2001-2005) a life long resident of Dansville, received her BFA from Syracuse University. She is President of Shapes Etc., Inc. in Dansville, a manufacturer of educational materials. Her commitment to education is evident through her business endeavors, and countless hours sharing her talents (paper-making, weaving/ natural dying, baskets, polymer clay, beading, and many others) in the classroom, at Growing Places, and in the community.

Wendy Wiggins (2001-2005) a twenty year resident of Dansville and the mother of four, was involved with Growing Places, Inc. as grant consultant. She brought over thirty years of non-profit funding and management experience, having obtained well over 3 million dollars in successful grants. Her years of educational counseling experience at Monroe Community College and as an independent grants consultant served to provide us with a basic knowledge of the ins and outs of grant writing .

IMG_7174.JPGJanice Jarvis (2001-2007) a life long Dansville resident, has had a 40 year career in childcare and working with children with special needs with a Child Development Associates Certificate. Over the years, she has organized and conducted monthly meetings for registered daycare providers. She now acts as the liaison between providers and Growing Places, keeping them informed of services and activities being offered by our organization.

Pam Maxson (2001- Present) a resident of Geneseo, home schooled her children for 7 years before becoming a health educator at Noyes Memorial Hospital. Her activities as a representative of local home schooling parents, and involvement with several home school groups gives her insight into what services these families are looking for in the way of supplemental enrichment opportunities. She helps to guide Growing Places in a direction that will allow many children to benefit from the wide range of activities offered by Growing Places.

Ruth D. Witte (President, 2001- Present) is from Maine, and has lived in the village of Dansville with her husband and four children since 1987. She received her BA (Human Services), in 1982 from State University New York at Buffalo. Her work in the field of human services includes mental health, youth and family services, substance abuse program development, counseling and prevention, independent living, and teen parent education and prevention. She founded Growing Places as a home based endeavor in 1995, and writes about the joys and challenges of parenting in a column for the Genesee Country Express.

Yvonne Sellers (Treasurer, 2002- 2004) is a lifelong resident of the Wayland area, now residing in Perkinsville. She previously worked at many jobs, including factory work, cashier, bank operations, and administrative secretary in an accountant’s office. She is very committed to finding opportunities for enriching her daughter’s educational experience and getting involved with others who feel the same way.

Judy Pendleton-Bailey (2003-2005) served for 23 years with Livingston County Social Services in the areas of foster care, child protective and adult protective services. In addition, her many years of volunteer work with troubled women and families further enhances Growing Places’ ability to meet the needs of Dansville and surrounding communities.

Heather Rock (2003-2005) is mother of 2 girls who attended Growing Places Nursery School, and brings with her experience in customer service and management. She has pursued animal rescue and rehabilitation activities following a two year stint as a zoo keeper. Her involvement in special events and fundraising endeavors has sparked an organization-wide enthusiasm for taking Growing Places to the top.

Nancy Hussey (Treasurer, 2004-2008) became involved with Growing Places following her retirement as Principle of EBH Elementary School. As an administrator, in addition to her responsibilities at the elementary school, Nancy coordinated the district’s state and federal programs. She felt that her financial and organizational skills would be a good balance to Ruth’s creative talents. In addition to obtaining tax exemption and recovering income the group had spent for sales tax, Nancy worked with Ruth on developing the budget, paying bills, and maintaining a record of all income and expenses. She developed a scholarship application, and assisted during special activities. She continues to participate in activities for the Women’s Center, where she keeps members of the book group, Ravenous Readers, aware of upcoming books and meetings.

World-233x300Suzanne Blackburn (Vice President, 2004- Present) moved to Western New York after serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya. She became involved with Growing Places when her children attended nursery school there. Growing Places became like a second home for her and her kids. They participated in play groups, holiday activities, family events, field trips, summer programs, and later when the girls were school aged, a home school group. As part of National Peace Corps Week, Suzanne brought her experiences of Kenya and her commitment to peaceful living to the Growing Places community. Serving on the advisory board keeps Suzanne and her family involved with the wonderfully creative and enriching world provided by Growing Places.

Sa1377410_10151797190314160_1533931904_nmantha Gibson (2005- Present) is mother of 2 children who each attended Infant-Toddler Playgroups before attending the 2 year Nursery School program. She has spearheaded the Pumpkin Carving Contest running it for 4 years and will continue to take that role until Ruth begs her to stop. Now that her children are both in public school, she works during the day as a sign language interpreter and at night as a chauffeur, chef and home maintenance expert. She hopes one day not to be totally exhausted and be able to grace the stage with her presence once again since that is where her passion lies. She is currently taking up guitar and by doing so, fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing an instrument.


Cari Durbin (Secretary, 2006- Present) became involved with Growing Places when she designed the brick path in the Growing Places garden. She subsequently became instrumental in the development of Tree Top Haven Women’s Retreat, a place for the local women to participate in activities like reading groups, hands-on craft classes, and community benefit projects. She came on Board as liaison with The Women’s Retreat. She has enjoyed the opportunity to meet some really great women with a commitment to so many important issues like youth education, community wellness, and making the world a better place.

Leah Solea (2006-2008) became involved as a student teacher in our classroom while her daughter was attending Growing Places. It was through her efforts that we obtained our first two grants!

Megan Ferree (2007-2009) first became involved with Growing Places in 1995, when it was established in the home of founder and director Ruth Witte. As a third grader she offered to share her expertise in making strawberry jam the Amish way, and continued to participate as a faithful volunteer each summer for the next 12 years. Following her high school graduation, from 2005-2009, she took over the development and coordination of Growing Places Summer program, teaching classes in international studies including art and music. She is currently an elementary music teacher in the Southern Tier.1928259_55633924159_4199860_n

Leanne Brewer (2006- Present) is a native of the Dansville area, and became involved with Growing Places as a result of her teen age son’s volunteer activities with the organization. As an empty nester seeking involvement in the community, she helped to design the Woman’s Programs and has participated in the development of Tree Top Haven Women’s Retreat.

1929701_9612389159_5836_nLeah O’Toole (2007-2009) grew up in Dansville. She brings her two young sons, her artistic talents (see murals in the Growing Places building), gardening and landscaping expertise, and is an invaluable hands-on garden and classroom volunteer.

Beth Symeslatini (2007-Present) has commuted the greatest distance over the years to ensure her children’s involvement in our programs. She is the organizer and master chef in Growing Places’ Annual Taste of Dominica fundraiser dinner initiated in 2008 to benefit the feeding program at Crayfish River Preschool in Dominica. She provides a voice of reason in her level headed approach to all of our endeavors.

Amy Bieck (2009-2010)283189_170180683050872_2238618_n

Giorgianna Everett (2009- 2011)

Jayne Acomb (2010- Present) Jayne Acomb LCSW has been helping people improve their lives for more than 25 years. Prior to establishing her private practice, she was a Clinical Supervisor for a major human service provider in Western New York. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Syracuse University. Jayne joins the Board with a special interest in expanding programs for women in her capacity as Life Coach.

Jennifer Luce (2010-Present) is a retired art teacher and is instrumental in expanding the programs being offered through the Women’s Center.

Emily Wolf and Kevin Mialky (2011- 2012) are teachers of English and Chemistry, respectively, at Dansville High School. Emily and Kevin settled in Dansville in 2005 after several years of living in New York City. They have two children. They were moved to serve on the Growing Places Advisory Board after seeing what Growing Places does in the community.

The Growing Places Garden

Over the years the garden space has been transformed from the original much smaller fenced in gravel yard, to its current gorgeous hideaway that is some 3 times the original size. The garden, which remains hidden from the road, is filled with trees and shrubs, flowers and produce, pond, memorial brick path, play structures, fire pit and tables- and all through the generosity of so many people who have put countless hours into its upkeep and transformation

Swing set, play house, picnic tables and original planters

  • Bob Rose * Tony Mosca * Ray Sellers * Rock Castor * Brian Mastin.

Original Garden Installation

  • Mrs. Carol Parisella and Mrs. Sue Haywood, and Dansville Central School 5th grade classes of 2001
  • Terry Ferree’s Girl Scout troop were instrumental in getting the original garden in.

The Pond

  • Dug in significant part by 3 and 4 year-old children using spoons, was assisted on the sly by Phil and Jordan Witte
  • Many thanks to Shawn Metcalf for rebuilding it in the Spring 2014

Gravel removal to make way for garden

  • Many Dansville teens have completed their community service requirements in this garden, including Ben Witte, Whitney Gross, Justin Seward, Will DeMuth, Keara Hartson, to name a few

Garden Path design and construction

  • Cari Durbin * Jeremy Adams * John White

Fence Relocations and Repairs

  • Jim George *Jeremy Blackmon * Randy Bratcher * Ben Witte

Facelift 2009 Gang:

  • Ian O’Brien * Shawn O’Brien * Sara O’Brien * Suzy Obrien * Maria Downey * Amanda Button * Sam Riedel * Greg Maltby * Ben Witte *Jordan Witte * Sara Cayer * Pam Maxson

Garden expansions and upkeep

  • Ben Witte * Jordan Witte * Danielle Goldstein * Phil Witte * Henry Witte * Maxson-Sweeny Family * Leanne Brewer * Jennifer Luce * Genesee Valley Society of Friends* and countless GP Families

Seeds, flowers, plants, trees and shrubs

  • Dansville Town and Country Agway * Steuben Landscaping * J&A Farm Market

We always need assistance in keeping up with the chores necessary to maintain our garden paradise. Please stop by, pull some weeds, trim some bushes or grass, enjoy some berries or herbs, peace and quiet… People who participate in the upkeep of the garden have first dibs on plant divisions, which given the enchanted nature of GP, happen rather frequently.

Building Maintenance

  • Steve Loop accomplished a crucial wiring upgrade in 2011.
  • Chris Everett and DeClerck Flooring, Inc.
  • Jim Beecher, aka Briter Homes Construction (counter and cabinet installation, closet and porch construction)
  • Remodeling project of 2013: RCS Contacting (construction), Randy Bratcher and Kieth Blackburn (finish work), JP Mummey (shelving); Pam Maxson and Ruth Witte (painting)
  • Ray Sellers (periodic art tile installation, remodeling)
  • Shane Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Blackmon, Ryan Backus (plowing)
  • Keith Blackburn, Shawn Metcalf, and Josh Maylin (lighting and plumbing maintenance)
  • Pam Maxson and Judy Pendleton Bailey (wallpapering)

Creative Talent

  • Mary Castor, Leah OToole and Sara O’Brien (mural work) * Susan DeMuth (Sculpey clay, scherenschnitte, origami) * Mary Castor (watercolor, soap-making) * Jennifer Luce (watercolor, acrylic and pastels) * Robin Kellett (beading) * Mary Skillings (basket-weaving) * Rodney Johnson (floral arrangement) * Cindy Welch at Journey Quilt Co. (crochet) * Barb Miller at Mount Pleasant Quilt Co (applique) * JoAnne Moore (signage)
  • Kay Thomas (writer) * Cris Riedel (storyteller) * Jim Drum and Mike Blum (Santa) * Phil Witte and Ryan Brewer (juggling)
  • Ian Gendreau , Phil Witte and Colin Wilcox (drumming) * Megan Ferree (Burczynski) * * Katie Schapp * Ryan Brewer * Ian Gendreau * Bruce Bailey * Jamie Stevens * Allen Fox * Kyrie Gibson * Analea Blackburn * Aurora Cayer, and more

Community Support

  • On-going assistance in the classroom: Hope Decker, Kelly Harvey, Leah Solea, Megan Ferree (Burczynski), Randy Bratcher, Jennifer Luce, and Lindsay Mehlenbacher and Mora Jane Mundt, Jordan Witte, Ben Witte, Phil Witte
  • Jeff Harvey, Jim George and Dan Dixon have made it possible for us to participate in various parades via float
  • Livingston County Child Protective Association provides scholarship assistance for families in need.
  • Hosts for Field Trips: Helen Kerr and Sheldon (exotic birds), Alexander’s Tree Farm, Fair Acre Farm, Jenkins Farm Market, Lane Cider Mill, Pankow’s Apple Orchard, Poppy’s Pumpkin Patch, Todd and Colleen Green, Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn, Dansville Senior Nutrition Center, Tops, Dansville Fire Dept., Nicholas Noyes Memorial Hospital, Dansville Post Office, the Moir-Webster Family, Good Milk Farm
  • Tony Witte and Ben Witte (webmasters)
  • Yvonne Sellers, Amy Mehlenbacher, Jordan Witte, and Nancy Hussey, have provided much appreciated assistance with book-keeping
  • Birminghams, Noel Folts, Lindsey Maltby, Danielle Earnst, Heith Cartwright, Cari Durbin


Donations and Financial Contributions

Nicholas Noyes Memorial Hospital * Genesee Valley Council on the Arts * Dr. Robert Rose * Livingston County Child Protective Association

Robert and Nancy Hussey * Keith and Susan Blackburn * Jayne Acomb * Rich and Anne Aquirre * John and Terry Ferree * Andrew and Samantha Gibson * Mary Harris * Genesee Valley Religious Society Friends * Deborah Schafer * Dick and Carol Dutting * Ruth and Tony Witte * Robin Kellett

Pumpkin Contest Sponsors and Prizes

The National Honor Society with Cheryl Keller * Rotary Interact Club with Floyd Sick and Robin Muchler * AJ’s Mercantile * MacFaddens Coffee Co. * Star Theater * Dogwood Trading Company * Tractor Supply Company * Dansville Town and Country Agway * Dunkin Donuts * Expressive Ink * Tony’s Pizzeria * Minnehans * Wegman’s * Tops

Judges: Rodney Johnson, Larry Thomas, Susan DeMuth, Jennifer Luce, Cheryl

Crayfish River Preschool and A Taste of Dominica

  • Lutheran Church
  • Edgar Schmidt and Star Theater
  • Maria Downey and Trevor White (Bottle Drive)
  • Kay and Larry Thomas * Chris and Janna Everett * Pam Maxson and Bernie Sweeney * Rich and Anne Aguirre * Keith and Suzanne Blackburn * Marilyn Gray * The Lumm Family * Scott and Mary Kay Phillips * Ruth and Tony Witte * Kathleen DeClerck * Jim and Karen Wissler * GP Parent Center…

Calendar Sponsors

Patricia Fitzpatrick * Edmond Agency * Stephen Barone * Ray Sellers * Ray Sellers * Smile by Design * Jayne Acomb * Stony Brook Pediatrics * Dansville Town and Country Agway * Don Wilcox * JMG Construction * WNY Childcare Council * Dogwood Floral Co. * John Vogel * James Stafford * Tri-County Family Medicine * Nicholas Noyes Memorial Hospital * Roger O’Toole * Mill Creek Optical * Gayle A. Mosher * Briter Home Construction * Jayne Acomb * Dansville Dental Professionals