Meet Jeny Burkhart! Jeny is a local business owner that pours her heart and soul into the dunes and everything she does. She has been married for 18 years to Aaron Burkhart and has 3 children: Olivia, Camille and Will. She is the owner of The Waxi Taxi, a waxing company that services the entire dunes area with offices in both Chesterton and Michigan City. Jeny is very active in the schools and the community. She currently runs the Drama Club at Discovery Charter School and sits on the Development Committee at Marquette. She is also a board member for Shirley Heinze Land Trust, chairs their Programs Committee, and works on the Spring Benefit Committee. She has recently started helping Save the Dunes by serving on the committee for DuneStruck the 65th anniversary gala, which will take place on November 3. Jeny and her family have hosted numerous exchange students over the years.
What brought you to the dunes? It was a long winding road! I grew up in the south suburb of Chicago, Oak Lawn. At 16 my parents relocated to Cedar Lake, IN. Until then, I had never seen farm animals outside a zoo or had woods to explore. And I had never been to the beach. Throughout the next several years, I moved to many NWI towns: Hebron, Lowell, Crown Point, Merrillville and then settled in Valparaiso for 6 years. Deciding we would like more space and property, we moved to a home just outside Michigan City. It was very secluded and we had five acres, surrounded by a nature preserve. It was there that I began to really be amazed, I had no idea just how special our little slice of Indiana was. It was while we were in Michigan City that I finally had my first real trip to the beach, I was 30! As beautiful as our property was, we really wanted a community for our young children. I had many friends that lived in Ogden Dunes, so I thought it might be fun to rent a home there for a year, enjoy the beach, and then purchase elsewhere. It didn’t take long till my family settled in. We finally experienced the walks on the beach, bonfires at night, hunts for crinoids and beach glass, hikes through the dunes (cactus, really?!), and being amazed at seeing the Chicago skyline. 2 years later we purchased a home in Ogden Dunes and can’t imagine being anywhere else.
How long have you lived here? I have lived in Ogden Dunes for 7 years, but lived in the area much longer.
What is your favorite thing to do in the area? I love the abundance of artists in this area, and enjoy all the art fairs and performances this area has to offer.
Tell us a secret about the dunes. It shouldn’t be a secret, but are you aware of all the partners and organizations that keep our dunes and surrounding area protected and accessible? The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the Indiana Dunes State Park, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, Save the Dunes, The Dunes Learning Center, Friends of the Dunes, Izaak Walton PCC, Northwest Indiana Paddling Assoc. and SO SO many more amazing organizations and individuals all work to bring you groomed trails, open water to kayak and canoe, safe beaches, educational programming; all while preserving and protecting the delicate ecosystem of this area.
Give us your top three “hidden treasures” (restaurant, shop, trail, beach, event…really anything!) a) Any of the Shirley Heinze Land Trust Preserves which are located throughout Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties. Recently they have added St. Joseph county and have acquired and protected Lydick Bog. So awesome!
b) The Uptown Arts District in MC. I absolutely love how Michigan City is evolving creating special space for small business, boutiques and artisans. I hope to see other communities embrace their vision.
c) The Field Station Cooperative Preschool. Nestled in the National Lakeshore near the Bailey-Chellberg Homestead is the most amazing preschool housed in a restored Swedish farmhouse and barn. We started at FS the first year the barn opened. It is a treasure, and anyone that has had children attend, will tell you the same. Please take the time to check it out if not for your own children, for anyone looking for a preschool that desired their child to develop critical thinking, have a hands on learning experience and build an appreciation for the outdoors. I have made some of my closest friends there and so have my children, and long gone are our preschool years!
What would you like to teach people about the dunes? I am in awe of the dunes and overall spectacular geology of this part of Indiana where both green and grey infrastructure have to co-exsist. When i hear local residents refer to our area as “The Armpit of Indiana”, I challenge them to take the time to look closer. Tucked in between the industry that supports our local economy, are some of THE most amazing treasures that are being restored and protected. Go and see for yourself. Black soil prairies, boreal forests, rare dune and swale habitats, black oak savannah, and very rare bogs. I had no idea just how special the dunes and outlying areas were, until I became involved and experienced them first hand. Become a part of the movement to keep these habitats protected.
Anything else? We are always looking for volunteers at Shirley Heinze. Visit heinzetrust.org and see just how you can lend a hand in their important mission of protecting, restoring and inspiring others on the importance of land conservation. I am also always looking for new members on my Programs Committee, please contact the office for more info (219) 242-8558
Do you find the arts as important for children as I do? Our drama club is in search of work space to build sets, sponsors, material donation, and any one skilled in set building. We are also seeking new possible venues for our performances as well as AV equipment. If you can help in any way or have possible contacts, please email me at email@example.com
At The Waxi Taxi, we offer professional body waxing at our offices in Chesterton and Michigan City, IN. and we have home visits for groups. For more information on The Waxi Taxi, please visit thewaxitaxi.com Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow on Instagram!
(Feature photo by: Molly Sabourin)
Sign up for the Dig the Dunes weekly newsletter to find out about all of the people, places and events happening in the dunes!