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story.lead_photo.caption Receiving awards from the Faulkner County Master Gardeners are, from left, Cherry Childs and Debbie Guthrie, co-chairwomen of the Legacy Gardens Project, which was named the 2017 Project of the Year; Sunnie Ruple, who was named Faulkner County Master Gardener of the Year for 2017; and Mary Ellen McMoran, who, along with Travis Sellers, each received a Friend of Faulkner County Master Gardeners certificate.

CONWAY — Members of the Faulkner County Master Gardeners work year-round on a variety of projects that help beautify the community. They recognized some of those projects, members and others for achievements in 2017 during a potluck luncheon March 14 at Antioch Baptist Church.

Debbie Howell, past president, introduced winners of the 2017 awards.

Antioch Baptist Church was honored with a Friend of Master Gardeners award in the business or organization category. For the past three years, the Master Gardeners have held their monthly meetings at the church’s activity center. Antioch also supported an arrangement for the continuation of the Legacy Gardens under the Master Gardeners program when the church purchased the Natural Resource Center building at 110 S. Amity Road and accompanying land. The Master Gardeners formerly met in the Natural Resource Center and installed the gardens on that property several years ago.

Travis Sellers, worship pastor at Antioch, and Mary Ellen McMoran, administrative assistant, each received a certificate as a Friend of Faulkner County Master Gardeners.

The Legacy Gardens Project was recognized as the 2017 Project of the Year. Cherry Childs and Debbie Guthrie, co-chairwomen of the project, accepted the award.

“For the past few years, the coordinators and Master Gardeners working diligently at the Legacy Gardens have been building for the future,” Howell said. “They have made subtle and marked changes by introducing new varieties of plants, increasing the number of native plants and using earth-friendly gardening practices to develop all-seasons’ gardens. They have undertaken the first step of updating garden maps and are expanding their use as an educational tool.

“The continuing partnerships between the Legacy Gardens and the Boy Scouts, Conway Corp., the Central Arkansas Rose Society and private businesses such as Rogers Inc., Culberson’s Greenhouse and Sam’s Club have supported these new developments,” she said. “But the initial and most significant transformation has been made in returning the Legacy Gardens to its original mission of being a teaching and demonstration garden.

“During 2017, the Legacy Gardens became a living classroom for the Faulkner County Master Gardeners, with various groups of our membership hosting garden workshops and tours,” Howell said. “These events introduced not only our new Master Gardeners but also included external groups such as AmeriCorps via the Department of Health Services to the Legacy’s beauty and limitless opportunities to educate people on a research-based approach to gardening.”

To conclude the announcement of major awards, Howell introduced Sunnie Ruple as the 2017 Faulkner County Master Gardener of the Year.

Ruple has been a member of the Faulkner County Master Gardeners since 2007. She is a past president of the organization and, in 2017, contributed 319.75 sanctioned work hours and earned 118.25 education hours for a total of 438 volunteer hours.

“Overall, Sunnie has contributed 1,536.75 sanctioned work hours and earned 717 education hours since she became a Master Gardener,” Howell said. “Sunnie was instrumental in the development of the butterfly garden in the Legacy Gardens, along with fellow Master Gardener Betty Baxter. [Sunnie has] served as coordinator of three of our eight dirt projects, while consistently volunteering at all of our other dirt projects. This past fall, she served as fall dig coordinator for our 2018 plant sale, [scheduled for May 12]. Her committee leadership and service are extensive, with her serving on almost all of our 27 committees and chairing several.

“Her contributions to the Faulkner County Master Gardeners and her community are truly far-reaching.”

Howell said the organization did not name a Rookie of the Year “because [we] changed our dates of Master Gardener training from spring to fall this past year. Therefore, we did not have a recipient for Rookie of the Year for 2017.”

Richard Klerk, Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service agent for agriculture and adviser to the Master Gardeners, said the local Master Gardeners reported 14,185 work hours and 6,845 educational hours for 2017.

The Faulkner County Master Gardener program is part of the Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture. For more information, call (501) 329-8344.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Carol Rolf, contributing writer for the Zoned Editions of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, including the River Valley & Ozark Edition, was recognized as a 2017 Friend of Faulkner County Master Gardeners in the individual category.

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