Gonzalee Martin Honored with 2021 Raymond Rosenberger Minette Baum Award
Gonzalee Martin, a longtime advocate for introducing youth to agriculture, is the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Raymond Rosenberger – Minette Baum Award.
The award is given annually to a nominee of the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation by the Rosenberger Trust to a person who has shown faithful service that alleviates human suffering, enhances the quality of life, or promotes wellness in the greater Fort Wayne area.
“I just don’t know what to say,” Martin repeated when he learned of the honor.
While Martin is too humble to talk about his accomplishments, he is quick to discuss his passion – introducing youth, especially those living in urban areas, to farming and the business of agriculture.Martin learned to love farming as a kid working on his family’s farm in the Carolinas. Along the way, he learned about more than growing produce; he learned about the business of agriculture and earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agricultural economics. Later, he worked as an agricultural educator for the Purdue Extension – Allen County office.
After working with the Extension Office and seeing how few youth understood or appreciated where their food comes from, Martin started GATE (Growth in Agriculture Through Education), which has helped hundreds of teens learn to grow vegetables and manage a farm stand.
Over the last few years, Martin has partnered with the St. Joe Foundation and HealthVisions Midwest of Fort Wayne to operate the HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) markets. The pop-up markets operate July – September at McCormick Place on the east side of Fort Wayne and the Parkview Greenhouse on Randallia Drive.
Martin employs teens who live in the Fort Wayne Housing Authority’s McCormick Place apartments, and together with his wife Mazell Martin, teaches them about farming. While Martin shows the teens how to till the soil and care for everything from tomatoes, to sweet potatoes to collard greens, Mazell helps them at the markets.
“She makes it worthwhile. She helps with the kids at the market,” says Gonzalee. “A lot of our young people have poor people skills so she teaches them customer service skills. It’s so
great to see the growth in them. For most of them, it’s their first job, so we teach them the principles of working hard.”
“I make sure the kids at the market know this is a job. They cannot mess around. No cell phones. And no calculators,” says Mazell Martin with a chuckle. “I have them count the money back to the customers so they can develop their math skills.”
While the work is hard, it’s also satisfying. The HEAL markets are located in food deserts, or neighborhoods without easy access to a grocery or market that sells affordable produce and healthy food.
“It’s rewarding,” says Martin. “I hope we’re leaving something behind for the community. What we teach the young people will last a lifetime…I would do it all over again. Just doing it has been a blessing in itself.”
The Executive Director of the St. Joe Foundation, Meg Distler, says Martin is the one who is a blessing. “His kindness and love for all people leaves a lasting impression,” says Distler. “Both Gonzalee and Mazell have touched the lives of hundreds of youth and adults and helped them learn the value of growing and eating fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Each year, the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation nominates the Raymond Rosenberger – Minette Baum Awardee. The recipient is selected by the Foundation Board of Directors and honors the individual’s diligent and faithful service to the community. PNC Financial Services manages the Raymond Rosenberger Trust and annually distributes a financial award to the recipient and/or their charitable organization(s).
Raymond Rosenberger was a longtime parishioner of St. Peter’s Catholic Church as well as a Kunkle Valve employee. He lived frugally and invested nearly all of his income. At his passing, his estate established a foundation that funds four individual service awards, each granted by a different local northeastern Indiana organization. The Rosenberger Award Foundation funds The St. Joe Foundation’s Minette Baum Award, along with annual awards given by Parkview Hospital, The Lutheran Foundation, and United Way of Allen County.
Minette Baum was born in Russia in 1879 and came to Fort Wayne when she was three. She was a prominent social worker and helped found the Jewish Federation, Fort Wayne Woman’s Club, League for the Blind, and the Inter-Racial Commission.