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Two local Master Gardeners earn state honor

Pat Gunnerson of Kendall County and Colleen Haas of Kane County recognized for ‘helping others learn to grow’

URBANA, Ill. – Pat Gunnerson of Yorkville and Colleen Haas of South Elgin each earned a 2020 State Outstanding Master Gardener Award.

The State Outstanding State Award recognizes the best of University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners. Only 1 to 2 percent of active Master Gardeners are honored annually.

“Nominated Master Gardeners must demonstrate leadership, initiative and follow-through; collaborate well with other volunteers or organizations; and keep up with continuing education,” said local Master Gardener program coordinator Sarah Fellerer. “Both of these individuals bring energy and passion to their local volunteer teams and projects, and they deserve to be honored for their dedication to helping others.”

In lieu of a ceremony at the annual Master Gardener conference this year, the award recipients were honored with a commemorative yard sign, flowers, and a certificate sent to their homes.

Pat Gunnerson with her award sign and flowers

Kendall County Award Winner

Kendall County’s Pat Gunnerson completed her Master Gardener training in 2017, and in that short time, she has volunteered hundreds of hours to serve Kendall County communities.

“Pat is a quiet, but effective leader who has found ways to be both creative and efficient,” Fellerer said. “She has been instrumental in the execution and success of some of Kendall County’s largest Master Gardener initiatives.”

For example, to efficiently provide growing information for plants being sold at the annual sale, Pat took on the job of researching and inputting a mountain of information into a spreadsheet that can easily be sorted. She also cross referenced it with seed sowing information for the Seed Swap project, said Fellerer.

Her past accomplishments include: advanced training in Ecology, Master Naturalist certification, and Kendall County Master Gardener Awesome Apple Award 2018. She also is on the state Master Gardener Advisory Committee, serves as co-chairperson for the Kendall County Plant Sale and Seed Swap events, formed a Kendall County Jumping Worm Committee, and is active in the Master Gardener Speakers Bureau, Help Desk and helped set up reporting for the Rainfall Network.

Colleen Haas with her award sign and flowers

Kane County Award Winner

A Master Gardener since 2013, Colleen Haas has given more than 550 hours to helping others learn to grow through her volunteer efforts.

“She empowers both the novice and experienced gardeners to master new knowledge and skills each season in the garden,” said fellow Master Gardener Patsy Hirsch, who works closely with her at the Sherman Hospital Natural Prairie and Community Garden.

Colleen has been active for seven years with the Sherman Hospital Community Garden project, a 50-bed educational set amidst an 80-acre restored prairie. With this experience, she initiated the group’s Community Garden Advisor (CGA) program. CGAs go on-site to help others navigate through starting a community garden and/or advise existing gardens, and they have since impacted several other local gardens including the Housing Authority of Elgin.

She also started a “Gardenside Chat” series and the Sherman Community Garden online resource center, and brought experts in food preservation, beekeeping and other topics to share knowledge with community gardeners.

In addition to all her great work at Sherman Hospital Natural Prairie and Community, she also has served as an Extension Master Gardener Mentor and Extension Council Member for DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties.

“Both Colleen and Pat exemplify the leadership and qualities of State Outstanding Master Gardeners,” Fellerer said. “We are proud to have them part of our excellent team of volunteers.”


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