Lansing green thumb named “State Outstanding Master Gardener”

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Master Gardener award winners Phyllis Warsen (left) and Carmen Holmes (right) hold up their award signs at Sand Ridge Nature Center. (Photo: Nancy Kreith)
Information provided by the University of Illinois Extension

LANSING, Ill. (October 9, 2020) – Two Cook County south suburban residents were honored for their commitment to the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener (MG) program. Phyllis Warsen of Lansing, IL was awarded State Outstanding Master Gardener and Carmen Holmes of Harvey, IL was awarded Master Gardener Sustained Excellence.

“The MG program wouldn’t be what it is today without volunteers like Carmen and Phyllis,” said Nancy Kreith, a Cook County Extension educator in horticulture. “They are instrumental in planning and advising various community gardens, and more importantly, they have deep roots in their own neighborhoods helping us make connections with locals.”

Award winners were presented with yard signs at Sand Ridge Nature Center, a Forest Preserves of Cook County site in South Holland, IL. Both Warsen and Holmes dedicate their time on a weekly basis to help restore and maintain native gardens at Sand Ridge.

Warsen works beyond the nature center gardens, however, as she helps restore the forest land by removing invasive species. She is a natural teacher and applies her knowledge to assist school garden programs at Willow and Reavis schools and community gardens in the Lansing area.

Besides volunteering at Sand Ridge, Holmes works with schools and community gardens in Harvey along with many schools outside of her neighborhood. She makes it her mission to teach residents of all ages about the importance of plants, as well as how support healthy ecosystems and incorporate healthy foods into their diets.

“We live in an amazing abundant ecosystem that is responsible for supporting all life,” said Holmes. “Learning and sharing knowledge of how to be one with nature for our well-being and providing substance for our bodies which come from the earth is what volunteering as a Master Gardener has taught me. Helping communities and families find the joy is seeing things grow is what I enjoy most about being a part of this wonderful group.”

“I have learned so much about gardening from the expertise of other volunteers,” said Warsen. “The lively exchange of ideas about plants and good food is stimulating! Helping young children discover the joy and excitement of digging in the dirt and watching the seeds they planted grow into food they can eat is a gift!”

“Working with Carmen and Phyllis over the years has been an amazing experience,” said Stephen DeFalco, Sand Ridge Nature Center Director. “Their passion is contagious and their eagerness to share their knowledge, mentor newer volunteers, help with public programs, and help our staff sets them apart.”

To learn more about the Master Gardener training and volunteer certification program please contact Nancy Kreith at [email protected].

1 COMMENT

  1. Congratulations and thank you to Phyllis and Carmen. Also thanks to the Lansing Journal for covering this news. The master gardeners are amazing people who share their knowledge, skills, passion and talents with organizations, schools, parks, etc. Not do they teach others about gardening. help planting and maintaining community gardens, forest preserves, Sandridge Nature Center, but they improve the quality of life for residents. I live in Lansing but I know Carmen from her work at my organization’s Community Garden in Harvey!

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