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Master Gardeners create award-winning green spaces in Decatur

The University of Illinois Extension Service honored Decatur-area gardeners at the Illinois Master Gardener Conference on Sept. 6 in East Moline.

The Macon County Master Gardener program had four individuals recognized. Master Gardeners are volunteers trained by the University of Illinois Extension who volunteer time and expertise by sharing their horticulture skills with the community through garden projects and educational outreach.

The Macon County Master Gardener program logged 3,440 total volunteer hours in 2018.
Nancy Derby was named the 2019 State Master Gardener Sustained Excellence Award, which highlights a Master Gardener’s new initiatives.

Master Gardeners create award-winning green spaces in Decatur
Nancy Derby (R)

Derby, an experienced award-winning gardener, designed an interactive children’s garden at the Decatur Public Library. The project welcomed area children who use the library to participate in hands-on gardening that now forms a green rim around the downtown building. The garden also incorporates a Monarch migration garden with milkweed, along with prairie flowers that are providing blooming color even into the autumn.

Derby’s award is in recognition of her promotion of the state’s Master Gardener program and her collaboration with community agencies to create and strengthen partnerships. Derby, who lives in Forsyth, joined Master Gardeners in 2013 and received the State Master Gardener award in 2017.

Three other Decatur Master Gardeners were also honored with the 2019 State Outstanding Master Gardener Award. Only 1% to 2% of active Master Gardeners in the state are recognized as an exceptional example to Master Gardeners.

Decatur resident Ruby Mathews became a Master Gardener in 2017. Her efforts have been in restoring a historical garden at the Millikin Homestead, where she often leads walking tours of the garden and shares the history and uses of the garden’s plants.

Ruby Mathews (R)

Karen Park also lives in Decatur has been a Master Gardener since 2015 and is always searching for “out of the box” ways to increase community awareness. She is the co-chair of the annual Monarch Madness celebration and through her recommendation additional hands-on activities have been created for area children.

Karen Park (R)

Lastly, Decatur resident Jacques Wrigley was awarded for his efforts in working with non-profit organizations that can benefit from educational programs that the Master Gardener program can provide. A Master Gardener since 2016, Wrigley has also been a mentor for Master Gardener Help Desk trainees.

Susan Barreto

Written by Susan Barreto

Susan is an award-winning journalist who has worked for a number of regional and global publications. Much of her career has been covering the global finance industry for publications published by Crains, Reuters and Euromoney/Institutional Investor. She also interned and later freelanced for Rockford Magazine as well as the Northwestern Illinois Farmer newspaper.

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