NAPERVILLE, Ill. – University of Illinois Extension of DuPage County recognized its Master Gardeners with the 26th Annual Master Gardener Celebration in November. The volunteer group has already completed 9,430 hours of service for 2017.

In addition, the group of 132 volunteers directly reached more than 8,900 people, and the Master Gardeners also helped grow and harvest more than 4,000 pounds of produce donated to area food pantries.

“Year after year, our passionate and giving volunteers serve our DuPage County communities with a variety of programs and services,†said Sarah Navrotski, Master Gardener Program Coordinator with University of Illinois Extension. “These trained Master Gardeners share their own time and talents through the Master Gardener Help Desk, service projects, community gardens, youth programs, horticulture therapy, heritage work and more.â€

DuPage County community projects include: Anne M. Jeans School Garden; Bloomingdale Community Garden; Cass Junior High School program; Downers Grove Heritage Garden; Downers Grove North High School horticulture therapy program; DuPage County Care Center horticulture therapy program; Garden Help Line and mobile Help Desks; Graue Mill program; Kline Creek Farm, Loaves and Fishes Garden; Naperville Community Garden; Ronald McDonald House; Western DuPage Special Recreation Association Rec and Roll; We Grow Dreams; Worms in the Classroom; speakers bureau educational presentations; and docent services for Ball Horticulture and Cantigny.

University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners have served DuPage County communities for more than 40 years, making the group one of the first volunteer corps of its kind in Illinois.

At the recognition event, those volunteers who reached milestone years with the program received commemorative pins to mark the achievement. Thirteen reached five years of service: Ada Bleecker of Downers Grove, Carol Burck of Hinsdale, Linda Campbell of Bloomingdale, Yola Chrusciel of Downers Grove, Ellen Crotser of Elmhurst, Bob Elvert of Naperville, Judith Friese of Hinsdale, Nancy Grove of Carol Stream, Karen Harris of Glen Ellyn, Marlene Kastle of Villa Park, Linda Lewis of Naperville, Terri Rafter of Addison, and Gail Sanders of Carol Stream. Laura Yelmini of Downers Grove reached 10 years of service, and marking 15 years of service were Tricia Bethke of Naperville, Pat Miller of Westmont, Dolly Moneka of Clarendon Hills, Julie Moore of Wheaton and Elaine Weil of Downers Grove.

“We have a strong Master Gardener program in DuPage County, and our seasoned Master Gardeners set an amazing example for incoming volunteers,†Navrotski said. “They are as eager and zealous as any new recruit, and they also have experience to share. In addition, our newly-inducted Master Gardeners show true dedication to DuPage County communities and enthusiasm for this historic program.â€

Sixteen Master Gardener interns were elevated to the official rank of Certified Master Gardener, including: Christine Daniele of Bensenville, Lori Kennedy of West Chicago, Joline Labedis of Darien, Kristen Lambert of Naperville, Pam Mancillas of Downers Grove, Jennielu Percic of Aurora, Kirsten Schmidt of Clarendon Hills, Chris Sentman of Roselle, Laura Sewall of Bloomingdale, Laura Shimkus of Westmont, Nancy Shonts of Elmhurst, Marilyn Smrcina of Oakbrook, Diane Stein of Naperville, Kathy Sudaz of Medinah, Laura Thorne of Naperville, and Ernie Turcotte of Villa Park. Each received a certificate and nametag to mark the achievement.

Master Gardener interns are required to complete 70 hours of training. In addition, they must accomplish at least 60 volunteer hours, and many surpassed that number, said Navrotski.

Both new and experienced volunteers, 33 in all, earned recognition for putting in more than 100 hours of service this year.

  • 100-plus: Marleen Ashby of Carol Stream, Carol Burck, Christine Daniele, Judi Davenport of Downers Grove, Linda Dickerson of Roselle, Ellen Finegan of Lisle, Steve Griffin of Naperville, Ann Klingele of Glen Ellyn, Joline Labedis, Dave Lien of Roselle, Kathy Madej of Lombard, Cheryl McGarrity of Warrenville, Pat Menzenberger of Glen Ellyn, Loraine Miranda of Wheaton, Julie Moore, Tsue Ostermann of Elmhurst, Jennielu Percic, Donna Ryan of Burr Ridge, Laura Sewall, Laura Shimkus, Nancy Shonts, Kathy Sudaz, June Vandervest of Downers Grove, Logan Wasson of Naperville, Elaine Weil.
  • 200-plus: Jerry Dungan of Aurora, Jan Gricus of Naperville, Pat Kosmach of Addison, Karen Pachyn of Elmhurst and Fritz Porter of Glen Ellyn.
  • 300-plus: Jan Hanson of Bartlett, Linda Kunesh of Carol Stream, and Gail Sanders.

“It’s truly special how these individuals give back to help others learn to grow,†Navrotski said. “Overall, this sensational volunteer crew completed another successful year!â€

The Master Gardener Help Desk will be open for calls again in the spring of 2018. For more information on the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program in DuPage County, visit