Board of Directors and Staff

Here at Unity Gardens, we are so proud of (and grateful for) our history of having truly amazing, dedicated board members volunteering their time and talents to help us accomplish our mission of improving and strengthening communities across Anne Arundel County through the support of sustainable greening projects.  Our board members bring a variety of personal passions and professional backgrounds to the table, and we invite you to take a few moments to learn more about them below. If you are interested in offering your services as a board member or volunteer, please contact us!

2020 Board of Directors

Bonnie Cook is a recent transplant to Annapolis from the Philadelphia area. She says: I feel I have come home to the time and opportunity to do what I have always loved which is to both garden and make the world I live in a better place, if only One Garden at a Time.  While I have always been a passionate native gardener, Unity Gardens is a good fit for me as recognizing how important community involvement is, I have always given time and energies to local non-profit boards in addition to running my own home based Interior Design business for 35 years. Those board positions have included A Better Chance which houses and educates inner city youth locally in order to prepare them for College plus our local 110 yr old NL Shops which raises considerable funds through consignment sales to donate to various health and family focused non-profits.  In addition to helping manage one of the shops, I was very involved in the grant and review process. I was educated at the University of Rochester and have family both here and in CO. My hobbies include reading, art and rearranging my life.

Jim Crafton is a member of the Magothy River Association and on the board of the Magothy River Land Trust. He is a Watershed Steward and a 2019 recipient of a Unity Gardens Grant for a conservation landscaping project in his community. Jim spent most weekends and summers of his youth at his grandparents’ cottage on the Magothy River. Now he lives there and wants to ensure that future generations can enjoy the same experiences by helping to restore the health of the Chesapeake and its tributaries. He is interested in exploring opportunities to develop additional stormwater mitigation and restoration projects. Jim graduated from the College of William & Mary and had a varied career before retiring, which ranged from water quality chemistry to appraising for conservation easements. He enjoys traveling, hiking, biking and gardening with his wife, Lise, as well as cooking for friends and family.

A retired lawyer, Sally Iliff was educated at Duke University, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Maryland School of Law. She and her husband are longtime Annapolis residents who raised their son and daughter in Annapolis.  After becoming a Master Gardener, Sally’s interest in native plants increased, spurred in part by an interest in attracting more birds, butterflies, insects, and wildlife to her home property and an attempt to control an ongoing assault by invasive plants.  Travel is a strong interest along with a variety of outdoor activities—hiking, kayaking, biking. She and her husband are long time competitive Masters Swimmers who regularly participate in the Chesapeake Bay swim and other open water swims. Sally currently serves as Treasurer. Sally serves as Treasurer of Unity Gardens.

Stuart Lehman , a local Marylander, grew up in Calvert County along the shores of the Bay before moving to the Annapolis area.  He studied biology and environmental sciences at McDaniel College and George Washington University.  Most of his career has been obtaining, managing, and overseeing watershed  grants for environmental agencies – most recently with the US EPA. Stu moved with his family to work for 5 years on river pollution problems in Montana.  The whole family, he says, was “enchanted by the state and the friends we made there” but he and his spouse Martha were ultimately drawn back to be with family, to life in Annapolis, and to the beauty of the Bay.  Since returning to his career in Maryland, Stu has also played on a local baseball team, monitored water quality with the Spa Creek Conservancy, and taken up oil painting.  Stu is interested in nature’s sacred places and how to maintain and create them.

Pat Mitchell, who currently serves as President of the Board, is a midwestern transplant, but a long time Annapolitan and Bay-Wise gardener. She  is a retired law librarian who enjoys  Master Gardener projects, crafts, reading, travel and  learning about our local ecology and sustainable agriculture.  Pat especially enjoys kayaking and boating on the Bay with her husband, Geoff.  She believes that the Unity Gardens mission of empowering communities to improve their environment with native plants is a positive force in the community.  Each individual really can make a difference by landscaping wisely and working together, and can achieve deep and visible results for our Chesapeake Bay environment.

John Rhoderick has a long history of working in the environmental protection field. From on the ground non-point pollution research to administering multi-million dollar conservation and environmental programs for federal, state and local agencies. His work at the Chesapeake Bay Program, Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Department of Environment has focused on building public-private partnerships to implement on the ground water quality improvements.

Karen Royer has lived in Maryland all her life, graduating from Severna Park High School, Goucher College and Johns Hopkins University, and working as a systems engineer at Westinghouse and GE Space Division.  Despite being “locally sourced”, Karen wasn’t aware of the importance of native plants until volunteering with the gardening committee at Woods Church and helping them to become Baywise Certified in 2017.  Her interest in native plants grew exponentially when she worked with Master Gardener Alison Milligan to help Woods Church secure a Unity Gardens grant to introduce native plants into the church campus for pollinator support and for stormwater control.  Karen loves the work of Unity Gardens and looks forward to spreading the joy of restoring nature through their many community-based projects involving native plants.

A native Texan, Kay Stringfellow has lived in Maryland since 1987. She is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. Prior to her move to Maryland, she worked as a public school teacher in Texas and Mississippi. She is happily retired after 24 years in a variety of positions with the U.S. Department of Defense. Kay’s interest in gardening led her to join the University of Maryland Extension Master Gardener program in 2010. She was a member of the Master Gardener Executive Advisory Board for Anne Arundel  County from 2012 to 2018, serving as Board Chair for 2 years. Kay has one daughter and two grown-up grandchildren. Kay serves as Secretary of Unity Gardens.

Lisa Walsh is a commercial solar developer for local installers Solar Energy Services, Inc whose recent ground-mounted solar project included a 5-Acre pollinator meadow; the largest to date in Washington DC.  Lisa has been a long-time native plant enthusiast, designer and implementer from her work with the City of Annapolis in the early 2000s, to volunteering at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s native meadow and Chesapeake Natives Nursery.    Lisa is also a beekeeper and host to a 1st year half-acre pollinator meadow at her property in Pasadena, MD.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Joni Sralla Miller is a lifelong environmentalist. She previously worked at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water, and served as the Board Chair of the Anne Arundel County Master Gardeners Executive Advisory Board. Joni grew up in Houston, Texas, attended Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, and earned her Masters degree at University of Baltimore. She is passionate about backyard habitat and preserving nature in the face of rapid land development, especially in Anne Arundel County. She is working to create a native sanctuary on her own 3.5 acres in Arnold, where she lives in a 1800’s farmhouse with her husband and two children.