Leadership

About Planting Possibilities Leadership Committees

Planting Possibilities is in its beginning stages, and at this time the organization is 100% volunteer. All funds generated are dedicated to bringing employment opportunities to adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Board of Directors

Mary Anne Neiner
Mark Neiner
Judy Allen
Rich Christakes
Joe Daniele
Marjorie Fairbanks Dytrych
Brad Hemingway
Paul Gergets
Carol Wachala

Board of Professional Advisors

Karl Dytrych
James Hitz
Mont Handley
Adj Kitt
David Wendlinger

Steering Committee

Bianca Cordova
Faye Gaiser
Beth Ondas
Meagan Yothment
Ruth Yothment


Meet our Board of Directors

Mary Anne Neiner

Mary Anne is the Founder and President.

In 2011 she and her husband, Mark, incorporated Planting Possibilities with the vision of building a greenhouse to employ and job train adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Mary Anne became involved in the autism community when their son, Eric, was diagnosed with autism over 20 years ago. She served as President of the Northwest Indiana Chapter of the Autism Society of America for 8 years, sat on the Board of Directors of the Autism Society of Indiana for six years and is a graduate of the Indiana Governor's Council for People with Disabilities “Partners in Policymaking” training program.

Mary Anne is a Purdue graduate, as are Mark and their daughter Colleen. Although Planting Possibilities is her passion, her career is in railroad engineering at a major North American railroad.


Mark Neiner

Mark is the Co-Founder and Vice President of Planting Possibilities.

He was responsible for our application and subsequent acceptance as Vocational Rehabilitation and Medicaid Waiver providers, and for gaining our CARF accreditation. He manages the daily operations at Planting Possibilities from planning and caring for our ½ acre garden and teaching our semi-weekly classes to administering our Voc Rehab and Waiver services. His favorite responsibility is working with our Campagna Project students by developing educational and task-oriented activities designed to present work as a fulfilling - and even fun - activity.

Mark is a graduate of Purdue University and Indiana University. After a 30 year career as a project manager in commercial construction, he is happy to have made the transition to the nonprofit world. His business and work experiences are invaluable assets for Planting Possibilities.


Judy Allen

Judy Allen received her B.S. in Psychology from Purdue University and her M.S. in Rehabilitation Administration and Services with an emphasis in Vocational Evaluation from Southern Illinois University. She was employed at Tradewinds Rehabilitation Center for 13 Years as a Vocational Evaluation Coordinator working with disabled adults. She also did neuropsychological and psychological testing for 11 years, working primarily with head-injured children and adults. Judy has held positions as a Behavior Specialist and as an Employment Interviewer with the State of Indiana.

Upon retirement, Judy became an Advanced Master Gardener and served on the board of that organization. She also worked as a merchandiser at a garden center for 8 years. She and her husband participate in greyhound rescue and are avid organic gardeners.

Her past professional experiences and her love of gardening makes her a perfect fit at Planting Possibilities!


Rich Christakes

Rich is a horticulturist and co-owner of Alsip Nursery and Garden Supply in St. John, IN and in Frankfort, IL, and a nursery facility in Kingsbury, IN.

Rich supports Planting Possibilities’ mission by providing a local special education transition-to- adulthood program with volunteer and work activities at his store. He has also invited Planting Possibilities to provide produce for Alsip’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program, an opportunity to purchase seasonal shares of locally sourced fresh produce.

Rich lives in Lake County, IN with his wife and 4 children. He is an avid Bears fan and hosts a local radio show featuring gardening and horticultural content.

His horticultural and business expertise, along with his commitment to help improve the lives of adults with disabilities in our community, are great assets to Planting Possibilities.


Joe Daniele

Joe is a life-long restaurateur and owner of Pepino’s Italian Restaurant in Schererville, Indiana.

His culinary expertise enriches our Campagna Project with a variety of engaging culinary activities that show our students how the produce they grow can be used in various dishes. Joe hosts our students at his restaurant where they make their own pizzas in his kitchen and enjoy their personal pizza parties.

Joe also volunteers as our Special Olympics basketball and softball coach and has recruited other dedicated coaches. His two sons, Dominick and Paul, are two of our Special Olympians.

Joe graduated from Purdue University. Along with their two sons, he and his wife Annette have a daughter, Gina, who is studying music therapy.

Joe’s culinary and sports enthusiasm enrich the lives of our students and our athletes!


Marjorie Fairbanks Dytrych

Marge is a founding member of Planting Possibilities and volunteers weekly at our Campagna Project.

During Marge’s 40 year career as a surgical nurse, she has worked at two major Chicago hospitals. While she and her Husband, Karl, raised their two children, she worked at a local hospital and as a school nurse so she could be more available to manage services for her son with autism.

Marge has been active in the local autism community through the NWI Chapter of the Autism Society and as a member of our special education Parent Network. She also regularly volunteers at Opportunity Enterprises in Valparaiso, where her son attends a day program and resides in a supported living apartment.

Her medical expertise, energy, and extensive knowledge of autism services are valued assets at Planting Possibilities.


Brad Hemingway

Brad is a founding member of Planting Possibilities. He is a licensed registered Financial Advisor.

Brad has always been involved in the local business community and service organizations. He currently is on the Board of Munster Chamber of Commerce, a member of South Shore Leadership and Past Chair of Illinois Parent Leadership Council.

He has taken an active role in managing the services of his special needs adult son. Witnessing firsthand the value of friendships between special education students and typical peers, he has been instrumental in establishing Best Buddies programs at Munster, Crown Point and Lake Central High Schools. He is currently working on starting a chapter at Purdue Northwest.

Brad is a graduate of Purdue University Calumet. He lives in Munster with his wife Amy and their three children. His business expertise help guide Planting Possibilities forward.


Paul Gergets

Paul is the Vice President of Engineering and Innovation for an international manufacturer of safety, security and industrial products. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA.

Paul grew up in the southside of Chicago and currently lives in St. John, IN with his wife Joyce and their two daughters, one of whom has a developmental disability. He joined Planting Possibilities’ board after he learned that our mission closely aligned with his desire to improve the availability of meaningful activities for young adults with intellectual disabilities in Lake County.

His enthusiasm and deep commitment to Planting Possibilities’ mission makes him the perfect chairman for our annual golf outing, one of our most important yearly fundraisers.

In his spare time, Paul enjoys woodworking and making his own guitars.


Carol Wachala

Carol is a retired Special Education teacher. She and her husband Mike are avid bikers, hikers and gardeners.

Carol taught Special Education students in Lansing, Illinois and Mike owned a local music store. They are life-long residents of Munster, Indiana.
They have two adult children: Sarah is an attorney in Terre Haute and Jonathan works for a marketing firm in Milwaukee.

After retiring, Carol heard about Planting Possibilities. Volunteering at our Campagna Project is the perfect blend of her love of teaching and her love of gardening. She spends two afternoons every week volunteering at the Campagna classes with Mark Neiner and several other dedicated volunteers.

Carol not only brings her years of special education expertise to the board, but her professional knowledge, kind heart and green thumb to our students.