Miranda Smith

President/ Founder/ owner

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Chris Arbizzani


Jason Milligan

Board Member/ Website Developer/ Media Consultant

Scott Otto

Board Member / Support Team

Miranda Smith image

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”
~ Mother Theresa.

This quote reflects Miranda’s personality and the foundation of Emerald Gardens. Our core program ‘The Community Network’ is all about building strong relationships. Miranda Smith, the founder of Emerald Gardens, not only enjoys this quote, but lives it daily. Miranda has led an ordinary life by most standards, living in Central Illinois for over 30 years. Experiencing many life situations, which triggered an emotional desire to help improve the world around her. She has dedicated her life to making a difference.

At seven years old, Miranda's passion to help others was visible when she started packing all the food in the house to give to a food drive. This passion for impacting lives through a love for giving grew throughout her teens, developing a core part of her personality leading to careers that influence others to improve.
After graduating from Ramsey High School, she earned an Applied Science Degree in Horticulture from Lake Land College. Since then she has used her education to give back to others. She has over a decade of teaching experience with Pre-K through 12, all subjects including Special Ed, as well as teaching the Horticulture program for Lake Land College (LLC) within the Department of Corrections and Juvenile Justice. During her 8 years at LLC, she had over 100 students graduate with a Certificate in Horticulture, was awarded best practices, and attended “New Curriculum Committee” meetings in 2015.

Miranda has served on the Greens Committee with Taylorville Correctional Center, and was awarded TCC employee of the month. She has diverse work experience from a small produce farm, to large landscaping companies, as well as Walt Disney World. Miranda currently serves as Treasurer at Family Beekeepers of Illinois. She has also devoted her life to volunteering: Food pantries, Give Kids The World at WDW, Shriners, church events, and community meals, such as Dinner Seasoned With Love. She has completed training in: CPR, CPI, Tool Equipment Safety, and eight years of annual state trainings.

Emerald Gardens was created to bring people and communities together to make memories which impact lives. By networking to encourage proactive, holistic and fun approaches to solving problems we all face during different times in our lives. Miranda wants to help teach people how to overcome trauma and gain emotional intelligence. Something every human being faces in life, currently with minimal support and knowledge of how to do this in healthy ways that produce positive memories. Emerald Gardens has many goals that are reached through a multifaceted approach to rehabilitation, not just of an individual, but of the environment that surrounds them. If one struggles we all struggle. We can no longer ignore the impact and power we have. Human connection is more than a fading memory. Our founder's belief is that the core and power of our souls ability to heal from bad impressions are powerful positive memories. These are necessary to offset negativity which then shifts the mind and heals the soul.
Where Memories Today, Inspire Change Tomorrow.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? “ -1 John 3:17 NIV
Our founder believes in Everyone.

Chris Arbizzani image

Chris Arbizzani is a business manager from the Suburban Chicago area; he has a Bachelor’s Degree in Small Business Management from Northern Illinois University. After 20 + years fraught with many frustrations, he and his family sold their business in 2019. He has since dedicated most of his time to service work and endeavors that help people. He has worked at a food pantry since late 2019, and was promoted to Floor Manager in late 2020. Today, his efforts are focused on the nonprofit Emerald Gardens, and hopes to continue to help it grow and prosper in the future.

Chris has always had a love of nature, an interest in science and plants, and has in recent years expanded his gardening efforts substantially. He also has done some construction and remodeling, and enjoys fixing things and troubleshooting problems. Another passion is being a good steward of resources; whether it be through thrift shop shopping, repurposing discarded items, or recycling, he is passionate about not wasting things. He is an advocate for “food rescue” programs at all of the food pantries he has served at, and encourages this behavior to all. He has a compassionate, empathetic spirit that lends itself well to the nonprofit’s work and mission.

Chris met Miranda Smith in 2020 when they worked together on a program growing food for the food pantry. They successfully completed a pilot study for “The Sharing Basket” program of Emerald Gardens where people in need were able to utilize the produce from a garden that was tended to by Miranda's students . Chris was appointed as Treasurer to the Emerald Gardens Board Of Directors upon its founding in February of 2022, where he continues to serve.

Jason Milligan image
Board Member/ Website Development / Media Consultant

Who am I ?

- Born and raised in the Taylorville area, I have spent many days enjoying the fun around Taylorville Lake and taking in the community. At a young age I developed a passion for music. I played in many bands throughout the years and learned many styles of music. After graduating high school I attended Lincoln Land Community College where I received my Associates degree in music and then a Baccalaureate degree in music. While there, I found a love for the human mind and nature while taking psychology classes for my minor. I continued my education at SIU Edwardsville, there I received my Baccalaureate degree in psychology and a minor in criminal justice. When I returned back home I went to work at a juvenile residential treatment center as a residential counselor. I am currently working on 10 years of service with IDOC and have served on the SWRT (Staff Wellness Response Team) since its inception.

Why Emerald Gardens?

- I want to make a difference in the community and help those who may not have someone around to help. Working in residential and correctional facilities, I have seen the continual need for resources and services for those who are struggling. I would like to use my education and passions for music, psychology and my love for the outdoors to help lift up the community. This is what Emerald Gardens is all about!

What would I like to bring to Emerald Gardens?

- In the short term I would love to teach a class using lyrics to allow for individuals to release their trauma and stress. I am excited to be a part of our teams database program, allowing individuals to find the help they need more easily. Furthermore, I would like to bring a mix of music, human nature, mother nature, fun and love to those who find their way to Emerald Gardens.