LOUISA THOMPSON OF Elkridge got involved with the Maryland Cooperative Extension because she wanted to grow better vegetables. That was in 1992.
Since then, her work with the extension service has earned her a Governor's Award for Service and Volunteerism and a Governor's Citation.
Thompson took the master gardener training course, received 40 hours of training and gave back 40 hours of service. Since then, she has received more hours of training and given back countless hours of service.
In her years as a master gardener, Thompson has planted the seeds of new programs and helped existing ones grow.
Last year, she started Conservation Stewardship, which, she said, "lets citizens take responsibility and ownership for the parks they use." Once a month, volunteers go to Patapsco Valley State Park to weed out invasive plants and protect vulnerable ones with deer repellent. The program improves the park and teaches residents about the environment.
"People don't know the woods very well these days," Thompson, 52, said. "They don't recognize what they see. That's something I really believe in teaching."
Thompson recently served as a Volunteer Maryland coordinator, finishing her yearlong stint at the end of July. Coordinators work full time for small stipends as members of AmeriCorps, the domestic Peace Corps started by President Clinton.
During her tenure, Thompson helped three master gardener projects flourish: the Conservation Stewardship project, Schools and Streams, and BayWise Landscape Consultation.
Under the Schools and Streams program, fifth-graders learn about the importance of stream buffers and take a field trip to plant trees along streams.
"What it meant was taking a small pilot program and moving it along," Thompson said.
BayWise Landscape Consultation teaches homeowners how to guard against runoff that can damage water supplies.
Before Thompson got involved, the program was labor-intensive, with a pair of master gardeners having one or two clients a year.
"Georgia Eacker, the master gardener coordinator for Howard County, wanted us to consult to homeowner associations," Thompson said. "That was something I spent a lot of time on this year."
Master gardeners now work with associations for Swan Point Townhouse and Long Meadow II, both in Columbia.
"We're moving in the direction now of consulting with larger groups," Thompson said.
Although her time with AmeriCorps is over, Thompson continues to volunteer with the cooperative extension.
The next Conservation Stewardship field day will be held Saturday. Volunteers will work on the Cascade-Ridge Trail loop, starting from Orange Grove at 10 a.m. For the full experience, plan to stay until 4 p.m.
Information: Bonnie Quinn, BonnieQ@gateway.net or 301-854-2374.
Peter S. Armanas, a cadet at West Point, has been named a Distinguished Cadet and received the Superintendent's Award at the U.S. Military Academy.
Distinguished Cadets must earn a grade point average of 3.67 or higher while carrying a full academic load. Recipients of the Superintendent's Award must excel in all three of the academy's programs - academic, military and physical.
Armanas, who graduated from Centennial High School last year, received a five-pointed gold star with a gold wreath pin.
He plans to graduate in 2003 and be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army.
His parents are Edward and Donna Armanas of Ellicott City.
Centennial Lane news
Centennial Lane Elementary School's Innisbrook gift wrap fund-raiser generated $12,087.50 for PTA-sponsored events and other school needs.
Among those selling $300 to $600 worth of gift wrap were Erica Hoobler, Chloe Heckman, Marie Visconage, Brooke Kraft, Marissa Monaco, Lauren Simenauer, Patrick Downey, Joshua Castelbaum and Alexander Janick.
Volunteers are needed for the school's One-to-One Reading Program. Volunteers would work one hour twice a week with a first-grader and a second-grader. Information: Debbie Pulone, 410-313 2800.