Orange County’s Master Gardener Volunteer Recognition Event

What is the Master Gardener Program?

The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a citizen-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the residents of Florida. The program relies on dedicated volunteers who have an interest in gardening and in giving back to their communities. Orange County’s Master Gardener Volunteer Program has been serving the citizens of Orange County since 1981.

The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program recruits individuals who are interested in gardening and enjoy sharing what they learn with others. Participants complete a 70+ hours of training sponsored by the University of Florida and the local county Extension office. Upon completion of the educational material, candidates then complete 75 hours of volunteering within their first year to become certified as a Master Gardener Volunteer.

A PowerPoint slide stating "Awesome Job Orange County Master Gardener Volunteers" by Wendy Wilbur

Orange County’s Master Gardener Volunteer Recognition Event

The Orange County Master Gardener Volunteer Program was long overdue for a Recognition Night. As we have all experienced over the past two years, a global pandemic stood between them and their yearly Recognition Event. Nevertheless, they continued to go above and beyond to serve their community. On September 22nd, we finally got to gather as we held our Fall Equinox themed Master Gardener Volunteer Recognition Event. We started our banquet with an inspiring message from none other than Wendy Wilber, our State Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator! We learned that we have the 9th largest volunteer program in the state, and are also ranked 9th in terms of volunteer hours! We have reached 7,000 hours this year alone!


We enjoyed some delicious food and listened to an inspiring talk from Dr. Norma Samuel, our Associate District Extension Director, and a former Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator. When she was an MGV Coordinator, she surveyed her colleagues on the impact of the MGVs for Extension and the community. She read us her findings on how her county raved about the MGV program, and assured us our county thought so to. She spoke on how she ran her successful program, and how we could follow suit. Big thanks to Dr. Samuel for joining us!



Class of 2021

We ~finally~ introduced the class of 2021, and got to learn all about the demographics of their class:

  • As of 2022, 50% are active members
  • Of the active members, 50% dabble in both edible and ornamental gardening
  • 50% are “fire” signs on the astrological calendar
  • 40% like to travel
  • 20% are Orlando natives
  • 10% are male
  • 100% lead fun and interesting lives!

Thank you, Fran Boettcher, for bringing this to life!

Class of 2022

Introduced by Laura Davidson, we also got to meet the class of 2022! And we learned what their interests are:

  • Helping Maintain the Exploration Gardens– Gail, Jervin, Julie, Laura, and Michelle
  • Container Gardening– Deborah, Jacque, and Laurie
  • Native Plants– Marsha, Deborah, and Laura
  • Flowers and Ornamentals– Marsha, Linda, Julie, and Patty
  • Designing and Touring Gardens– Laurie, Linda, and Patty
  • Fruits, Veggies and Medicinal Herbs– Tom, Jacque, Gail, Jervin, Michelle, and Gary
  • Composting and Vermiculture– Tom and Gary

The Legacy Award

Another long overdue recognition- The Legacy Award! A beautiful speech delivered by Jody Breaud on behalf of the Legacy Committee. “To acknowledge and award a UF/IFAS Extension Orange County Master Gardener for outstanding achievements and sustained dedication in support of the Master Gardener Program’s Vision and Mission Statements. The award honors a Master Gardener who develops an idea, makes it happen and leaves lasting benefits to others for years to come – in other words, A Legacy!”

The 2021 Legacy Award Winner is Brenda Miller! “Among the many services she has provided to the community, Brenda established a 3-way partnership of Nemours Hospital, Orange County Head Start, and the OC Master Gardener Volunteer program. In addition, she is an adjunct educator at Mead Gardens environmental education program by promoting MGV program to provide services to Mead Garden’s visitors and volunteer gardeners. Thank you, Brenda, for being an inspiration to the MGV programs and to our Orange County Community.”

Golden Trowel Awards

Most Plant Clinic Hours:

Awarded to John Otto with 78 hours! John is known by his peers for his knowledge and dedication to the plant clinic. He volunteers weekly and was “voluntold” to helps trains new MGVs. Thank you for your dedication, John!

Most Garden Hours:

Awarded to Anna Polgar with 98.25 hours! Anna can always be found in the Demonstration Garden helping out our Garden Techs, Dave & Troy. Thanks for all your hard work, Anna!


Most Youth Volunteer Hours:

Awarded to Jim Radosevich with 64.5 hours! Jim has been a vital part of the Headstart/Nemours /OC MGV collaboration. He works in the garden with preschoolers and teaches them about gardening and vegetables. Way to make a difference, Jim!

Most Volunteer Hours

Awarded to Janice Oberwetter with 227.5 hours! Janice can always be found organizing the library, helping with the pH soil testing, running the mobile plant clinic at events, and so much more. Thank you for your service, Janice!

Floral Contest


Carrying on with tradition, the floral contest! A reluctant participant who got “voluntold” to make a floral arrangement, our winner was Carmen Yon! This was Carmen’s very first floral arrangement made with flora from her garden! You’re a natural florist, Carmen!



Staff Recognition

Jeanette Mercado- Jeanette is responsible for all the “behind the scenes” needs of the Residential Horticulture agents. She is a wizard at navigating Better Impact and we greatly appreciate everything she does for the Master Gardener Program!

Tia Silvasy- In the interim period without a Master Gardener Coordinator, Tia stepped up to support the Master Gardeners and was a great asset to the Plant Clinic. A tiara for Tia seemed like the perfect fit. Thanks for everything, Tia!


Thanks to all the volunteers whose efforts made this event happen!

Last, but not least, a big thanks to the MGVs who helped put on this incredible event.

Co-Chairs: Bonnie Temby & Dena Wild

Recognition Event Team: Edith Welsh, Carmen Yon, Pat Shastry, Patt Fusco, Sally Reome, Leah Bayer, Adrienne Barton, Carol Carlisle, Doreen Walker, Chia Chi, Max Case, John Otto, Maggie Sojourner, Tania Harmon, Arjuna Dusherla, Ed Paulson, Heather Cowley, Fran Boettcher, Linda Miller, Gary Lewis, Tania Harmon, Tom Bednar, and Jeanette Pollard

Photos by: Gary Lewis and Hannah Wooten 


Posted: October 20, 2022

Category: , Community Volunteers, HOME LANDSCAPES
Tags: #OrangeCounty, Awards And Recognition, Master Gardener Volunteer, Master Gardener Volunteers, OC MGV, Orange County Extension, UF/IFAS Extension Orange County, Volunteers

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