University of Illinois Extension of DuPage County recognized its Master Gardeners with the 27th Annual Master Gardener Celebration in November. The volunteer group has already completed 8,750 hours of service for 2018.

In addition, the group of 113 volunteers directly reached more than 9,000 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, who is retiring after 13 years with University of Illinois Extension. “As I clean off my desk and get ready for retirement, I’m thinking a lot about all the wonderful people I have had the privilege of meeting and working with through the Illinois Extension Master Gardener program. I really cannot think of a nicer group of people than Master Gardener volunteers.â€

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. Examples 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, 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: 25 years – Paul Stoffels of Glen Ellyn; 20 years – Sandy Lentz of Oak Park; 10 years – Judi Davenport of Downers Grove, Jim Green of Darien, Deb Hornell of Glen Ellyn, Mary Kelly of Aurora, Linda Kunesh of Carol Stream, Mary Ann Norton of Lombard, Karen Pachyn of Elmhurst, Carolyn Simek of Bloomingdale, Sue Viravec of Huntley, Cynthia Ward of Lombard, Logan Wasson of Naperville, and Nancy Zorn of Warrenville; and 5 years – Mary Ann Kwiatkowski of Lemont.

“We have a strong Master Gardener program in DuPage County,†Navrotski said. “Both seasoned volunteers and new Master Gardeners show true dedication to our communities and our neighbors. In fact, many gave 100 or more hours in 2018.â€

Thirty volunteers earned recognition for putting in more than 100 hours of service this year. They are:

  • 100-plus: Marleen Ashby of Carol Stream, Ada Bleeker of Downers Grove, Barbara Bozek of Willowbrook, Chris Daniele of Downers Grove, Judi Davenport, Lin Drogos of Roselle, Ellen Finegan of Lisle, Steve Griffin of Naperville, Joline Labedis of Roselle, Cheryl McGarrity of Warrenville, Pat Menzenberger of Glen Ellyn, Loraine Miranda of Wheaton, Tsue Ostermann of Elmhurst, Jennielu Percic of Aurora, Paul Stoffels, Kathy Sudaz of Medinah, June Vandervest of Downers Grove, Sue Viravec, Logan Wasson and Elaine Weil of Downers Grove.
  • 200-plus: Carol Burck of Hinsdale, Linda Dickerson of Roselle, 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 of Carol Stream.

In addition, Kirsten Schmidt of Clarendon Hills and Chris Sentman of Roselle earned advanced training certificates in ecology.

“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, and I will miss being a part of this amazing effort. Keep up the great work!â€

The Master Gardener Help Desk will be open for calls again in the spring of 2019. For more information on the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program in DuPage County, visit