Purpose and Passion Yields Peonies and Profit for Bernardsville Entrepreneur
(My Central Jersey – May 13-2013)
Kathleen Gagan is the first to admit that her days are long and there’s always too much to do, but the challenges are balanced, she says, by moments of sheer bliss.
With the fortitude of the peonies she cultivates, the 52-year-old Gagan is living proof that in midlife one can take a right-hand turn into an entirely new career and enjoy satisfaction and success on one’s own terms.
“This is the best spring I can remember,” said Gagan, owner of Peony’s Envy, a display garden and nursery in Bernardsville. “Last year, spring came early and it was hot. This year spring has been long, slow and cool. We are actually enjoying real weather.”
Six years ago, the mother of two transitioned from working as an international corporate consultant and linguist to full-time farmer and entrepreneur out of a desire to work from home and spend as much time with her children as possible.
Initially she thought she might grow peaches, but quickly turned her attention toward the peony — a hardy and colorful flower that can continue to bloom for more than 100 years.
“The extraordinary beauty of the peony drove one Chinese empress to move her palace to a more suitable location so that the tree peonies she loved would grow better,” said Gagan during an appearance on “The Martha Stewart Show” in March 2010.
Driving by the Serin Physics Laboratory on Frelinghuysen Road in Piscataway, one might glance at the grey, rectangular structure and consider it just another building on the Busch Campus of Rutgers University.
Inside it, however, are research teams grappling with some of the most intriguing mysteries of our universe, contributing to a growing body of knowledge about our world, the nature of matter and how we came to be.
The Rutgers research community contributed to three of the 10 major discoveries in physics for 2012 as noted by Physics World magazine, including: the observance of a new particle in the universe — the Higgs-boson (also referred to as the “God Particle”); communication using neutrinos; and the discovery of galaxy cluster motion.
Bernardsville woman wins $1 million from Chase Awards to support her Liberian nonprofit working with young women on the streets
In Katie Meyler’s four-year journey of helping girls in Liberia transition from a life on the streets to a life of hope, the Bernardsville resident has single-mindedly focused on getting these children get back into school.
She has helped hundreds do just that. Now that her organization, More Than Me, has been awarded the $1 million grand prize through the American Giving Awards, which aired on NBC Saturday, she has set her sights even higher.
“Our goal now is to help 1,000 girls get back into school, and we have a plan to make the school self-sustaining within five years,” said the 30-year-old upon receiving the award.
For weeks Meyler worked tirelessly spreading the word about the American Giving Awards campaign, sponosored by Chase, which was based on the number of votes received online on Facebook.
Since 2009 she has been speaking at churches, schools, and nonprofit organizations, sharing her story, which includes doubts and fears she has faced and growing up in poverty in one of the richest areas of the country. When she doubted herself the most, it was a friend who urged her to get beyond her personal concerns.
“That’s when I realized that what I wanted to do was — more than me,” Meyler said.
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