Each year University of Illinois Extension’s Master Gardener program recognizes outstanding volunteers who combine their love of gardening with helping others to make a positive impact in their communities. Here locally, eight Extension Master Gardeners (EMGs) were honored with state awards.
Sustained Excellence Award
Peoria’s Louise Bassett was recognized with the Outstanding State Master Gardener Award in 2015 and currently leads the butterfly habitat project at Wildlife Prairie Park. She is also involved with the ICC demonstration garden and Jubilee College butterfly garden, among other projects.
A seven-year Master Gardener, Jennifer Bass of Peoria helped create the Japanese Garden at ICC and assisted with the Wildlife Prairie Park 4-H garden, Pekin community gardens, and the annual plant sale. She was the Peoria County Master Gardener of the Year in 2017.
Chuck Crider of Dunlap spent a lifetime as an educator and gardener before joining the Master Gardening program nine years ago. He has volunteered his expertise to showcase Luthy Botanical Garden and the ICC demonstration gardens and made a significant impact in the retention of new EMGs.
An EMG for 17 years, Larry Stratton of Peoria contributes hundreds of hours each year answering questions from the public through the Gardening Helpline and at various outreach events. He has become the go-to person for answers to the most difficult problems encountered by Master Gardeners.
Outstanding State Master Gardener Award
Bill Baker of Green Valley volunteers with his wife Kathy on projects such as Plant Bingo and the Green Valley Community Garden. He also provides beekeeping expertise to the public, and is noted for coordinating a local tree walk.
In addition to his EMG training, Bill Johnson of Dunlap holds certifications for chainsaw safety, rain gardens and pesticide application. He has volunteered with a variety of EMG projects, including gardens at Dream Center Peoria, Wildlife Prairie Park and Advanced Medical Transport.
Tremont’s Michelene Koch leads the crew of volunteers at the Morton Giving Garden and has volunteered for a number of other community gardens in Tazewell County, as well as serving as a horticulture judge for the 4-H Show.
Peggy Shane of Princeville has served in multiple EMG leadership roles and volunteered for projects like the St. Jude Parish Church and School Gardens. She has assisted with training sessions, the annual plant sale, Peoria RiverFront Market, and mentorship of EMG interns. extension.illinois.edu/fmpt. PM