By Sandy Mason
State Master Gardener
Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who build and enhance their community through gardening.
In 2016, Illinois had 2,834 active members, 470 people completed the 60 hours of internship training. Of the 102 counties in Illinois 76 have Master Gardener programs.
On Sept. 8 two local Master Gardeners achieved the Outstanding Master Gardener Award. Leah Patapack, Oregon and Randy Calvert, Stillman Valley received the prestigious award at the Illinois Master Gardener Conference held in Normal.
Only 36 individuals received this award throughout the state of Illinois.
To be considered to receive the Outstanding Master Gardener award a Master Gardener must go above and beyond in his/her volunteer leadership roles, exhibit qualities of a good leader, identify needs and generate new educational project ideas, enhance service to the public, collaborations, actively sought out continuing education opportunities, find ways to share their knowledge.
Leah Patapack, completed her Master Gardener training in 2011 and has given 520 volunteer service hours beyond the 60 hour internship she also completed 85 continuing education hours.
She is a great listener and gives a smart response to the question or conversation. She is excellent at directing people and keeping them on task with a kind and patient approach.
Patapack is well organized and has the necessary materials for various projects. If she does not have specific materials, she will create them.
For example, in the Jr. Master Gardener programs we offered a “Growing UP” garden. she created a very unique trellis that will help to inspire the participants to ask questions and think outside of the “box”.
Patapack is a friendly and familiar face to the JMG participants. She excels at connecting the participants with the program. Leah is engaging, light-hearted and structured.
She easily gains the trust of the youth, which encourages their capacity to learn and be excited to watch plants grow.
Leah works very hard, she has a full time job along with giving over a 100 volunteer hours not just in 2016 but the last several years.
Randy Calvert completed his Master Gardener training in 2004 and has given 657 volunteer service hours beyond the 60 hour internship he also completed 235 continuing education hours.
He is sought out by other Master Gardeners for his input and advice. Randy processes the information and evaluates options before suggesting actions. He is generous, steady, dedicated and kind in his leadership style.
Calvert is committed to excellence in everything he does. He is passionate and knowledgeable about gardening. He has the ability to give good direction and works well with all age groups.
Calvert took the leadership role to design, develop and deliver lessons on the Heritage Farm Gardens, which took place in 2013 and 2014.
He also took the leadership role as Hotline Coordinator in 2016. Calvert has a personal approach to garden related questions while also using advanced technology to get results. In this role, he managed the calendar ensuring that all dates were covered.
Habitat for Humanity was building a home in Mt. Morris. The Ogle County Extension office was contacted for assistance; Calvert stepped up and met on site with the new homeowner. Calvert helped the homeowner through the process by drawing up designs for a home garden. Working together, they developed a design that was workable and affordable.