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Volunteers recognized for 2017 service to the Chicago Botanic Garden

Awards given to exceptional volunteers recognized for outstanding service, leadership

Jasmine Leonas, (847) 835-6829

Event Date: 
Release Date: 
Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Chicago Botanic Garden held the Volunteer Awards Reception for 2017 Service on Wednesday, June 20, in McGinley Pavilion, to recognize years, as well as hours of work, put in by thousands of volunteers last year.

“Our Volunteer Awards Reception celebrates the partnership between staff and volunteers, as well as the volunteer gift of time and talent, which is essential to the Garden’s strength and growth,” said Judy Cashen, director of volunteer administration and engagement. “I am so grateful to our volunteers and our staff for providing me with the joyful opportunity and privilege to make a difference in the lives of others in a meaningful way.”

Volunteers who have dedicated 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 years of service were honored at the reception. Two volunteers, Beth Buchsbaum and Betsy Sharp, were especially commended for having served at the Garden for 35 years.

Altogether, the time committed by volunteers to the Garden in 2017 reached 110,000 hours—or equivalent to the work of 60 full-time staff members, noted Fred Spicer, executive vice president and director. Sharing those numbers provided a clear picture of their importance to the Garden’s operations.


Individual awards:

Volunteer of the Year

Awarded to: Carolyn Wiggins of Northbrook

Presented by CEO Jean Franczyk, the highest honor this year went to Carolyn Wiggins, a volunteer who has given nearly 3,000 hours of service since she began volunteering in 2002.

Wiggins serves as a school field trip program volunteer, and as described by her colleagues, is “one of the most hard-working, flexible volunteers” they have ever met. She also brings a great attitude each day she is at the Garden—rain or shine, sleet or snow. 

Wiggins earned her master gardener certification from the University of Illinois in 2003, and her hobbies include biking, reading, kayaking, gardening, and playing the flute and piano.


Kris Jarantoski Excellence in Horticulture Volunteer Service Award

Awarded to: Allen Wagner, Doris Wagner of Wheeling

Presented by Executive Vice President and CFO Tom Nissly, this award recognized two of the Garden’s volunteers who have demonstrated extraordinary service and exemplary commitment toward supporting the horticulture collection at the Garden.

Allen Wagner, who volunteers with the Plant Production Nursery team, is known for being eager to help with any assignment. He began his volunteer service in 2006, and he can also be found in the Plant Science Center every week.

Doris Wagner began her volunteer service in 2009. She volunteers with the Living Plant Documentation team, as well as with the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden and Butterflies & Blooms team. She is known for helping wherever help is needed and often shows her gratitude toward staff for permitting her to volunteer with their teams.

The couple has dedicated a combined 5,000 hours of volunteer service to the Garden.


Barbara Whitney Carr Excellence in Leadership Award

Awarded to: Leslie Kanofsky of Skokie

Kanofsky, who volunteers with the Fruit & Vegetable Garden team, is known for being kind, supportive and “an excellent representative of the Garden.” Since 2009, she has given nearly 1,000 hours of volunteer service.

Kanofsky’s co-workers shared that she is a “wonderful asset to their programs and should be recognized for her tireless effort.”

The award recognizes Kanofsky for her “positive attitude, expert attention to detail and outstanding leadership.”


Five-Star Customer Service Award

Awarded to: Glenn Kohlmeyer of Winnetka

Since 2004, Kohlmeyer has given more than 1,600 hours of dedicated service to the Garden. He is described as “dedicated, knowledgeable, and humble.”

Kohlmeyer assists as a Living Plant Documentation volunteer team leader for the slide scanning team, mentoring new volunteers for the team. He’s in the Garden throughout the week, answering questions for his team members.


Super Senior Award

Awarded to: Barbara Seegert of Deerfield

Seegert, who volunteers weekly at the Garden’s Rice Plant Conservation Center, has dedicated nearly 1,400 hours of volunteer service to the Garden.

One of the Garden’s scientists, who is also a professor at Northwestern University, said Seegert is passionate about the environment, as well as very detail-oriented and really pays attention to what people are interested in.

Seegert’s colleagues shared that she takes initiative and does not wait for you to ask her for help. Instead, she asks, “What else can I do?”


Each volunteer was given a ‘Pesto Party’ basil (Ocimum basilicum), grown by the Garden’s horticultural staff, as a gift. Brian Clark, manager of plant production, shared some information about the plant, including how it is a light, flowery basil and great for pesto and salads. The reception closed with another big thank you to all the volunteers and a final round of applause.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Garden, please contact Judy Cashen, director of volunteer administration and engagement, at (847) 835-8392.


Editors, please note: For digital images, contact Julie McCaffrey at (847) 835-8213 or at

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