Thank a volunteer this week

Yellow flowers in front of a person gardening
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This past weekend, I was standing in the shade of Hedgeapple Woods at Ewing Park II looking at a patch of native wildflowers where only a year before there were patches of garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle – serious invasive species for our area. In just one year, there was a dramatic increase in the number of wildflowers I was able to spot in these cleared areas. These efforts and more are thanks to the amazing contributions of our University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist and Master Gardener volunteers. Their tremendous efforts sustain local nature preserves, community gardens and University of Illinois Extension educational outreach. In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 18 – 22), join us in thanking the Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists by visiting one of their volunteer sites.  

Germantown Hills School Garden

This Woodford County Master Gardener project incorporates eight individual gardens into one space: vegetable, shade, bird, blue and white, butterfly, bulb, and herb themed gardens. Started by two Master Gardeners in 2006, this project has led to a unique annual ritual: Elementary school kids plant flowers and vegetables before summer break and then return in the fall to a mature garden brimming with a harvest of fruit, veg and flowers. These experiences for children are worth their weight in gold and only possible thanks to the dedication of local Master Gardeners. 

Hedgeapple Woods at Ewing Park II 

If you live in Bloomington-Normal, stop by Hedge Apple Woods at Ewing Park II. This park and trail area is home to many species of birds, beautiful spring flowers, and native shrubs. Jack Muirhead – project leader for Hedgeapple Woods – and many other Master Naturalist volunteers have worked hard to remove invasive species and conduct strategic plantings of native wildflowers for locals to enjoy. Consider a walk this holiday weekend: a little getaway, in the heart of town.  

Illinois Art Station

This collaborative project between the Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners is located in Normal, IL. The mission of Illinois Art Station (I.A.S.) is to provide all children, youth, and their families with transformative learning through hands-on experiences in the visual arts. Master Volunteer efforts include construction and maintenance of habitat for pollinator species, notably Monarch butterflies; establishment of a Monarch Waystation; and supporting education in a living classroom. Volunteer Folks involved provide ongoing stewardship to improve the natural habitat of the I.A.S. grounds. Join the energy of this budding project, visit Illinois Art Station to showcase your support.  

Remember to thank a volunteer when you see one—Happy National Volunteer Week 

PHOTO CREDIT: Farmers Market Style Tomatoes; Nick Frillman, University of Illinois Extension

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nick Frillman is a Local Foods and Small Farms Educator serving Livingston, McLean & Woodford counties. A fourth-generation graduate from University of Illinois, Frillman has a B.A. with a double major of Political Science and Spanish and a M.S. in Crop Science with a focus on crop production. Before joining Illinois Extension, Frillman completed a field season of CSA and farmers’ market style production at a small “beyond-organic” vegetable farm in Sandy, Oregon.