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Awards Ceremony on Monday, August 11 at Bethel Woods

July 28, 2014

[BETHEL] – Teams of experts from outside Sullivan County will spend August 6 to 9 visiting over 50 locations throughout Sullivan County before selecting winners in several beautification categories.  For the second year, a separate panel of judges will also select the winner of the Community Mitzvah Award from ten summer camps and bungalow colonies.

Judges will also acknowledge projects with awards for excellence in historical preservation, youth involvement and environmental stewardship; and honor communities for their showings of flowers.

The fifteen experts include individuals with horticultural, planning, community and international knowledge. 


           Diane Blair – Has worked for a prominent landscape architect in Washington, DC and volunteered at the U.S. National Botanic Garden in its native plant garden; now lives on 15 acres of old farm land on the Yellow Breeches Creek in Mechanicsburg, PA where she has fun and keeps fit battling invasive species and planting natives as she returns the meadow to its original state.

           Nicole Franzese – Director of Delaware County Planning Department since 2000 (with the department since 1990); provides technical assistance on comprehensive plans, main street revitalization, zoning review, grant writing, SEQRA compliance, watershed management issues.

           Donna Harrison – Has a decade of judging experience including Communities in Bloom (Canada), Communities in Bloom (Ontario), America in Bloom and the National Winter Lights Program; extensive municipal experience with City of St. Catharines including 25 years as manager of cemeteries and golf; past president of the Ontario Parks Association; current chair of the Ontario Parks Foundation.

           Michael Newhard – Life-long resident and four-term Mayor of Warwick; artist and partner in Main Street retail store; is an advocate of community re-vitalization, historic preservation, farmland and environmental protection; Warwick was 2003 national winner of America in Bloom and is the 2010 international winner of Communities in Bloom.

           Linda Onofry – Retired Montessori school teacher at the Homestead School in Glen Spey; an active 22 year member of the Garden Club of Orange & Dutchess Counties; holding may leadership roles, including past president and co-chair of the horticulture committee; an avid lifetime gardener; grew up and resides in Port Jervis.

           Peter Patel – Horticulturist and arborist for the Orange County Arboretum in Montgomery; Certified Arborist – International Society of Arboriculture, Cert. Nursery/Landscape Professional, and member of the Tri-County Nursery Association; owns ArborHeights Designs, LLC.

           Nancy Proyect – President of the Orange County Citizens Foundation since 2006; owned a public relations consulting firm serving the nonprofit, governmental and private sectors; active in Leadership Orange, Orange County Arts Council, Cornwall Community Cooperative, Temple Beth Jacob, SUNY New Paltz CRREO, and the Junior League of Orange County.

           Odette Sabourin-Dumais – Horticulturist from St-Bruno-de-Montarville, Québec; acts as national and international judge for Communities in Bloom since 1995; has evaluated more than 140 communities in Quebec, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Japan; secretary-treasurer of the Communities in Bloom Executive Committee and chair of the Symposium and Awards.

           Karen Schneller-McDonald – Ecologist and writer for Hickory Creek Consulting LLC in Red Hook, NY.  She provides natural resources planning, environmental impact assessment, and public outreach and education services to municipalities and organizations.

           Ann Smith – An avid gardener for over 35 years; member of New York Botanical Garden, Friends of Boscobel and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; past board member of Cornwall Garden Club; garden associate specialist for Devitt's Garden & Supply, New Windsor.

           Deborah Sweeton – President and co-owner of Techni-Growers Greenhouses Inc.; published books in Common Sense Gardener series; past OFA board member; chairs Cornell Floriculture Advisory Committee; chaired Warwick in Bloom in 2004; won 1st and 2nd prize in Kathy Puhfal container competition at Cornell University in 2007 and the international challenge in 2010.

           Michael Sweeton – General manager/marketing director for Techni-Growers (clients include Brooklyn Botanic Gardens); NYS Certified Nursery Professional; Town of Warwick Supervisor; President of the Orange County Association of Towns, Villages and Cities; serves on Orange County Citizens Foundation Board and Orange County Planning Board.


           Mary Lewis – Founder of the garden design firm Barncroft, she served as a Sullivan Renaissance judge for nine years and a garden design consultant for two years; past president of Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties, past Zone Representative of Visiting Gardens Committee for Garden Club of America (GCA), and co-chairs GCA flower show “A Woman’s Hardy Garden” in Beacon.

           Rabbi Joel Schwab – Religious leader of Temple Sinai in Middletown, NY since 1982; President of the Greater Middletown Interfaith Council, where he helped create a winter Warming Station for street people; honored by Orange County Human Rights Commission (2007), United Way of Orange County (2009) and METNY Region of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism (2011).  

           Yossi Toiv – “Country Yossi” is the name of an English-language Orthodox Jewish magazine, radio show, collection of musical albums and children's books created, composed, authored and published by Yossi (Joseph) Toiv; the radio show has been on the air continuously since 1986; the monthly magazine has printed over 3 million copies since 1988.

Community Beautification projects are judged for aesthetic improvement, collaboration, youth involvement, permanence and an ability to be maintained.  Community Mitzvah projects are judged for cleaning-up and maintaining their grounds and beautifying the look of the facility.


Winning communities will be announced at the Sullivan Renaissance Awards Ceremony on Monday, August 11 in the Event Gallery at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, NY.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m. with light refreshments; the program begins promptly at 6:45 p.m. 

Communities selected as the most successful in completing their Category A and B projects will receive additional grants between $1000 and $10,000.  The Golden Feather Grant of $25,000 will go to one of five Category C projects.  Judges will also award separate grants for “Showing of Flowers” including special prizes for large and small gardens to communities that received maintenance support.  Community Mitzvah Awards of $10,000, $5000 and $3000 will go to the seasonal communities that best cleaned up and beautified their grounds.

Young people will be acknowledged for participating in the Sullivan Renaissance Internship Program.  Scholarships will be announced by SUNY Sullivan Foundation and the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan Counties.

Sullivan Renaissance is a beautification and community development program principally funded by the Gerry Foundation.  Sponsors include Bold Gold Media Group/Thunder 102, FisherMears Associates, Kristt Company, Robert Green Dealerships, Sullivan County Democrat, The River Reporter, Thompson Sanitation, and WSUL/WVOS.

For information, contact 845-295-2445 or