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Cultivating community: Master gardeners give back

Published: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 6:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 12:06 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Jan Hanson, of Bartlett, leads a fairy garden class. Hanson recently received a Sustained Excellence Master Gardener Award for her continued distinction as a master gardener.

“We come from the earth, we return to the earth and, in between, we garden,” said Jan Hanson, one of two Carol Stream area master gardeners recently awarded for her work cultivating community through gardening.

During the Sept. 20 Illinois Master Gardener Conference in Moline, the duo, from the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners of DuPage County, were recognized for sharing their time and talents.

Linda Kunesh of Carol Stream was named a 2013 State Outstanding Master Gardener and Hanson, of Bartlett, was honored with the Sustained Excellence Master Gardener Award for master gardeners who previously have received the Outstanding award and have continued to demonstrate distinction.

“Linda and Jan are exceptional examples to master gardeners in DuPage County, in our unit and around the state,” said University of Illinois Extension Program Coordinator Sarah Novrotski. “Both are truly passionate about the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners’ mission of helping others learn to grow.”

Kunesh achieved master gardener status in 2009 and continues to volunteer in several capacities, including leading a team of master gardeners at the DuPage Convalescent Center.

She and her team have enhanced the Center’s Theraputic Horticulture Program by providing year-round gardening lessons. Each day, many of the Center’s 330 residents and their families visit the gardens, which offer beauty, peace and tranquility.

In 2012, Kunesh and her team volunteered more than 2,190 hours, including 515 hours on her part alone. They were recognized with the State Master Gardener Teamwork Award and received second place in the International Search for Excellence Award at the 2013 International Master Gardener Conference.

Kunesh, who also is a member of the Bloomingdale Garden Club, received a $10,748 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation that became the catalyst for the Gardening Year Round Project at the Center. The grant has funded a wheelchair accessible cutting garden, raised beds where residents can garden and supplies for garden craft projects.

“The award is actually affirmation of the wonderful work our Garden Team at DPCC does with the residents,” Kunesh said. “My mentor in educational administration many years ago advised me to always surround myself with strength. The master gardeners and garden volunteers are my strength. The resident gardeners are my inspiration.”

Hanson attained the status of master gardener in 2007 and received a State Outstanding Master Gardener Award in 2010.

She instructs the Body Smart Gardening program, which teaches people how to have a more healthy experience in the garden through proper bending for less fatigue, protection from injury or the elements and more.

Additionally, Hanson developed a Fairy Garden Class that is becoming one of the Extension’s most popular programs.

Fairy gardening is a combination of miniature plant material used to create a vignette or scene arranged in small indoor or outdoor containers.

Hanson has partnered with the DuPage County 4-H program to present the children’s fairy garden lesson to 25 youth.

“The benefits of gardening are enormous,” said Hanson. “It’s calming, creative, spiritual, physical, challenging and forgiving. It’s working hand in hand with Mother Nature.”

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