ST. CHARLES, Ill. – University of Illinois Extension celebrated its Kane County Master Gardeners with an awards and appreciation night in October. The dedicated volunteer group has already completed 3,931 hours of service for 2019.

“Annually, our Master Gardeners volunteer thousands of hours throughout the county at community projects and through the Master Gardener Help Desk,” said Sarah Fellerer, Master Gardener Program Coordinator. “University of Illinois Extension truly appreciates these knowledgeable and giving volunteers and all they do to serve our Kane County communities.”

Throughout the year, Master Gardeners share their own time and talents through therapeutic horticulture programs, the Idea Garden, community gardens, educational sessions, and various service or beautification projects. The annual appreciation event recognizes outstanding service and commemorates milestones in the program.

“All of our volunteers are valuable to the program,” continued Fellerer. “Each year, we also like to recognize those who went above and beyond to work on multiple projects, start new ones, or continue the excellence of existing projects.”

Twelve volunteers gave more than 100 hours of service in 2019, and they were honored with a certificate and small gift of appreciation. They include: Patsy Hirsch of Elgin with 313 hours, Marty Yochum of Elgin (259), Marcia Koenen of St. Charles (229), Sue Styer of Geneva (187); Linda Goll of St. Charles (129), Margaret-ann Haas of Algonquin (126), Donna Plonczynski of Geneva (122), Susan Swing of Elgin (122), Helen Snyder of Sugar Grove (120), Jennifer Knoblock of Geneva (117), Rose Loehrke of St. Charles (109), and Jennifer Tonn of Batavia (104).

  • Master Gardeners also won additional awards to recognize work, leadership, creativity and more. Loehrke earned the Awesome Apple Award, which recognizes interns or first-year Master Gardeners who finished training and started off strong. She volunteered at nine different projects, including her role at the Idea Garden.
  • The 2019 Apical Dominance Award, which recognizes leadership, went to two honorees: Donna Plonczynski for her exceptional work at the Kane County Juvenile Justice Center garden program and Jennifer Tonn for the children’s garden project at the Idea Garden.
  • The Spuds Potato Award honors those quiet but diligent, dependable workers, and this year’s went to Julie Grisham of St. Charles for her efforts at the Idea Garden.
  • The High Yield Awards went to Marcia Koenen and Susan Brauhn to recognize their above-and-beyond efforts in achieving program objectives. Koenen earned it for her work at the Sherman Community Garden and Brauhn for her efforts at the Idea Garden.
  • In addition, Helen Snyder of Sugar Grove was recognized for logging the most Help Desk hours. She spent 104 hours at the helm, answering community questions via walk-in, phone and email.

“All of this year’s honorees exemplify the Master Gardener mission of ‘helping others learn to grow,’ while also strengthening the county program as a whole,” said Fellerer.

In addition to awards, Master Gardeners can earn advanced certificates in specialized areas. Paula Altekruse of St. Charles and Donna Plonczynski of Geneva received their advanced training certificates in ecology, and Bob Kugach of Elburn received his sustainable landscaping certificate. Volunteers also receive anniversary certificates and commemorative pins to mark their years with the program. 2019 marks 10 years of service for Ron Asselborn of Campton Hills and 20 years of service for Sandy Portincaso of Huntley.

The season-end celebration also marks the end of the year for the Master Gardener Help Desk, which finished Oct. 31. It will reopen March 2020. For more information on the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program in Kane County, visit go.illinois.edu/extensiondkk