Hillary Joy Pitoniak, greenhouse and invertebrate care technician, was presented with a service award on May 8 by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) for her work with the Utica Community Gardens. Pitoniak has represented Hamilton on the Utica Community Gardens committee since its founding in 2012.
As a committee member, Pitoniak has worked alongside members of the State and County Departments of Health, the Refugee Center, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Home Ownership Center, and various other groups, to establish community gardens throughout the City of Utica.
She has also worked with students involved with Hamilton’s community farm donating seedlings and planting garden beds in Utica’s community gardens. Pitoniak said this activity gives the students “an opportunity to get off the Hill and engage with our local community, which provides a worthwhile experience all around – both for our students and community members.”
In 2014, Pitoniak and the Hamilton farm managers donated seedlings and helped plant the Unity Community Gardens (including a Refugee Learning Garden) for Utica natives and refugees.
This year, a group of New Hartford High School special education students visited Hamilton’s greenhouse to help plant seeds that will later be donated to several of the community gardens in Utica and the surrounding area, including a Nepali refugee garden in Deansboro that is in development. Pitoniak said that some of the produce is expected to go to the soup kitchen at Utica’s Thea Bowman House.