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Master Gardeners receive awards

Several Ogle County Master Gardeners took centerstage on April 3 celebrating their achievements at the annual awards banquet.

The mission of the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program is “Helping Others Learn to Grow.”

“The Master Gardeners have found a fantastic way to share their talents and give back to our community. They make a difference to the people around them,” said Elizabeth Sosa, Extension Program Coordinator.

Without people who are willing to sacrifice their time and skills to our youth, adults and seniors, the world and our community would be a lot worse off.”

Service awards were given to Kathy Michel, Byron for 10 years of service along with Sue Johnson, Mt. Morris, Mary Ley, Oregon, and Leona Totosz, Oregon for 5 years of service.

In the course of the 2017 year the following individuals gave 50-plus volunteer hours to Ogle County projects that included: community gardens, fairgrounds gardens, Hotline, Jr. Master Gardener, and Therapeutic Horticulture. Those compiling 50-plus hours were: Phil Bratta, Davis Junction, Bobbi Burke, Rochelle, Sue Johnson, Mt. Morris, and Leona Totosz, Oregon.

The Master Gardener Hotline, which is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9 a.m. to noon, plays a key role to help answer and educate the community and neighbors on flower or vegetable garden and insect questions.

Bobbi Burke, Rochelle was the Hotline Hero as she documented the most time spent answering community questions, dedicating 37.25 hours on the Hotline.

If you have a garden question give the Hotline call 815-732-2191 or email

The Spice of Life award went to Larry Ermey, Stillman Valley, a person with sincere desire to learn, inspire and share.

“Larry has a strong level of practical experience of knowledge of gardening, his actions, whether big or small have influenced someone’s life.

“Although Larry had some health issues during the middle of the year his tenacity and determination was sincerely inspiring,” Sosa said.

The Golden Trowel Award, all I can say is WOW, impressive. These Master Gardeners who gave more than 100 hours to Ogle County were awarded The Golden Trowel Award.

“All I can say is wow, impressive,” said Sosa. “The community is very lucky to have such powerful individuals living right next door. Studies have found that when you stop thinking about your own problems and focus on someone other than yourself, your stress levels start to decrease; your immune system is strengthened and your overall sense of life satisfaction increases.

Master Gardeners who had 100-plus volunteer hours of service were: Sally Sarafin, Oregon, 106.25; Deb Bryant, Mt. Morris, 107.25; Sue Paulin, Rochelle, 128.5 hours; Leah Patapack, Oregon, 130; and Kathy Michel, Byron, 135 hours.

The final award of the evening was the coveted Green Thumb award. This award was created to recognize a Master Gardener that is well rounded, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, a role model, has a love of gardening, involved in multiple projects and was voted for by his or her peers.

“The Most Valuable Planter (Green Thumb) award went to two fantastic Master Gardeners Sue Paulin, Rochelle, and Leah Patapack, Oregon.

“National Volunteer week is April 15 - 21. Please take the time to thank the volunteers in your life and consider volunteering in your community by lending your time, talent and voice to make a difference,” Sosa said.

For more information about the University of Illinois Extension, Master Gardener Program, Ogle County please contact, Sosa, at 421 W. Pines Rd, Suite 10, Oregon, (815-732-2191) or visit