YORKVILLE, Ill. – University of Illinois Extension celebrated its Kendall County Master Gardeners with an awards and appreciation night in October. The dedicated volunteer group has already completed 1,937 hours of service for 2019.

“Each year, our Master Gardeners volunteer throughout the county, and many of those were answering questions from county residents at the Help Desk or working on local community projects like the Plano Community Garden, Oswego Farmers Market, and through their annual seed swap and plant sale” said Sarah Fellerer, Master Gardener Program Coordinator. “Illinois Extension is proud of the Master Gardener program and appreciates these hard-working volunteers’ knowledge and generosity.”

Master Gardeners share their own time and talents through educational sessions and various community projects, and the annual appreciation event recognizes their outstanding service and commemorates milestones reached through the program.

2019 interns Natalie Kollman and Sara Meadowcroft, both of Plano, were elevated to the official rank of Certified Master Gardener in Kendall County. Each received a certificate and nametag to commemorate the achievement.

“Master Gardener interns are required to complete 60 hours of training and at least 60 hours of volunteer time,” Fellerer said. “It makes for a busy year, but our newly-inducted Master Gardeners show both dedication and enthusiasm for the program and county residents’ needs.”

“While all of our volunteers are valuable to the program, 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,” continued Fellerer.

Several volunteers gave more than 100 hours of service in 2019, and they were honored with a certificate and small gift of appreciation. They include: Hillard Bryant (756 hours) and Connie Hatter (624), both of Plano; Pat Gunnerson of Yorkville (136), Patti Baroni of Montgomery (124), Pat Hambly (121) of Oswego, Laura Spang (105) of Batavia and Steve Wolf (104) of Sandwich. Gunnerson also was recognized for logging the most Help Desk hours. She spent 55 hours at the helm, answering community questions via walk-in, phone and email.

In other awards, Baroni earned the Awesome Apple Award, which recognizes interns or first-year Master Gardeners who have a strong start in the program, sharing new ideas and energy. She contributed to several projects, including the help desk, Seed Swap and the Kendall County Master Gardener Plant Sale, including her special presentation on rescuing and raising Monarch butterflies. The Apical Dominance Award recognizes exceptional leadership of a project or event, and this year the honor went to Steve Wolf for his work  on the Plant Sale Leadership Team and coordinating staffing of the help desk. Georgette Prisco of Aurora and Hillard Bryant each earned this year’s Spuds Potato Award, which acknowledges the workhorses who keep projects or activities going or who step up on a moment’s notice. She has been active with both the plant sale and at the help desk, and he is known for his great work at the Plano Community Garden, which supports the Kendall County Community Food Pantry. The 2019 High Yield Award went to Pat Hambly to recognize her above-and-beyond efforts for plant sale, seed swap, help desk and more.  

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

In addition to awards, Master Gardeners receive various certificates at the annual appreciation event. Jenise Tucker of Oswego was recognized for 15 years as a Master Gardener, and four of her fellow volunteers reached the 10-year milestone: Kathy Graham of Yorkville, Carolyn Pottinger of Yorkville, Laura Spang of Batavia and Peggy Maguire of North Aurora.

The October season-end celebration also marks the end of the year for the Master Gardener Help Desk; it will reopen March 2020. For more information on the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program in Kendall County, visit go.illinois.edu/extensiondkk