Several University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners of DuPage County received honors during the 2017 Illinois Master Gardener Conference on Friday, Sept. 8 in Bloomington. Local Master Gardener volunteers won a Teamwork Award for the Cantigny Veterans’ Garden project.

“The Teamwork Award recognizes Master Gardeners who have worked as a group to better a community,†said Sarah Navrotski, Master Gardener Program Coordinator in DuPage County. “We are proud to have these DuPage County volunteers honored at the state level, and it is clear they are truly passionate about the Master Gardener mission of ‘Helping Others Learn to Grow.’â€

This DuPage County project included Master Gardeners and partners Cantigny Park, Oak Park Veteran’s Center and Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans. After years of development and months of work, the first physical seeds were planted in May of 2016.

The program has included veterans and volunteers of various ages, genders, backgrounds, and circumstances. The garden program structure allows for participants to socialize, trust, feel safe, and find purpose.

The group repurposed an old research plot; a space that hosts 40 three-foot-wide, round, raised beds. Arranged uniformly, the planters stand in rows like soldiers, and together, total 280 square feet of planting area. Throughout the growing season, Master Gardener volunteers planned and taught weekly classroom-style lessons and led hands-on experience in the garden.

“Together, we were able to provide veterans the opportunity to work and learn in a safe, peaceful environment,†Navrotski said. “Not only did the Master Gardeners provide weekly lessons, but many veterans took the horticulture information and nutritious produce home to share with family and friends.â€

The veterans and volunteers also were able to give back to community neighbors, donating more than 200 pounds of produce to local pantries, including Peoples Resource Center in Wheaton, for 2016 and 2017.

Honored Master Gardeners include: team leaders Fritz Porter and Logan Wasson, and team members Nancy Bell, Ada Bleecker, Gail Blessing, Chris Bosacki, Barbara Bozek, Carol Burck, Ginny Carlson, Patricia Carmichael, Anita Casey, Karen Cimbora, Eileen Connolly, Kathy Cressman, Judi Davenport, Linda Dickerson, Bob Elvert, Ellen Finegan, Judith Friese, Nancy Grove, Dawn Halter, Karen Harris, Laurie Hogrewe, Peg Knight, Pat Kosmach, Ruth Kyme, Dave Lien, Paula Loret de Mola, Julie Moore, Ann Paulikas, Sharon Rakowski, Bonnie Spark, Tim Sweeney, Sue Viravec, and Laura Yelmini.

For more information on the Master Gardener program in DuPage County, visit University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems.