Iowa City Press-Citizen
Gantz helps keep Iowa City beautiful
Mary Gantz is a trendsetter. The community volunteer and Project GREEN grants coordinator said she’s been part of the public landscaping and environmental awareness organization since the early 1990s, before environmentalism was cool.
“Project GREEN was green before (green) was en vogue,” she said.
Gantz will receive an Outstanding Local Partner Award from the Iowa Urban and Community Forestry Council at an awards luncheon on April 17 — her first award as a member of Project GREEN. Chuck Porto of Iowa City Landscaping also will receive the award. The two are being recognized
for their partnership with kindergarten teachers in the last four years to develop a better curriculum on tree education within the Iowa City Community School District.
Gantz is hesitant to take credit for the award. Instead, she said the recognition is a reflection of community work at its finest.
“It’s a really good example of how much more you can accomplish with a partnership than you can with yourself,”
she said. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Gantz always has been a staunch School of Music boards and as a grants reader for the Johnson County Community
Foundation. Currently, she serves on the Iowa Women’s Foundation and Oaknoll Retirement Community boards.
Of her involvement in the community, Gantz said, “I’ve been lucky.”
She also carries her passion for volunteering into her work with Project GREEN. Though she tends a home garden and several of her relatives are gardeners, Gantz said it wasn’t a green thumb that drew her to the 300-volunteer member
organization, but its commitment to enhance the community through beautification.
“(Our purpose is) the beautification of public places,” she said. “You really notice it when you go to another town and say, ‘What’s different about this town than Iowa City?’ I think Iowa City is a lot more beautiful.”
As for her project with Porto and the school district, Gantz said “that’s where it starts.
“You get kids involved at young ages, ...and they carry those principles on,” she said. “They learn to look at things
differently and treat plants differently, and I think it works.”
Porto said he is honored to be recognized alongside Gantz and Project GREEN for their work with the schools.
“(Gantz) is a really involved person and does philanthropy things on her own,” he said. “It’s nice to have other people who understand the community and that it’s important to be community involved.”
Project GREEN co-president Diane Allen, who has known Gantz since 1980 when they were next-door neighbors, said Gantz is the kind of person who gets things done.
“She knows the right questions and direction to lead people and definitely has really high standards, and expects (not
only for) a project to be put into the ground, but maintained as well,” Allen said. “(She) is very talented. She can put on a
pretty smile and get so much accomplished.”