2020 Award Winners

Deborah Smeltzer has been an active Master Gardener in Skagit Co. since 2012 with cumulative hours of over 5,200.

From the beginning of her tenure with the Skagit County Master Gardener (SCMG) Program Deborah Smeltzer has made lasting contributions that constitute a legacy for both the Master Gardeners and greater gardening community. Her background in science and business combined with a passion for adult and youth education and commitment to community service has enabled her to share her experience and skills to strengthen the Master Garden Program in Skagit County and expand its reach into the local community.

Deborah has been a valued member of the SCMG Training Team ensuring that trainees receive the quality of education that will enable them to become knowledgeable and engaged members of the Master Gardener community. She conceived and developed the comprehensive training binder provided to new trainees and takes responsibility for its annual update. She has served as a mentor to trainees/interns supporting them during their training and helping them to find their place within the organization. She also works diligently to retain MGs in the program, frequently reaching out to make people feel valued for their contributions.

As Chair of the SCMGF Plant Fair, an annual fundraising event, Deborah re-established a dedicated Plant Fair Leadership Team, developed master documentation, streamlined operations to make them more efficient and fun, and promoted online volunteer signups. She expanded marketing, signage and championed adding credit card sales leading to increased public attendance and record-setting profits.

During her four-year term as President of the SCMGF Board, Deborah strengthened the framework of the board by introducing annual goal setting, establishing a 3-year budget planning process, championing grant writing for special projects, setting-up a recruitment process for new MGF board members and other leadership positions, and ensuring that the foundation maintained at least a one-year financial reserve. She created board binders to facilitate understanding foundation documents and organizational memory. She also championed the establishment of Star Awards to recognize MGs for their exceptional “behind-the-scenes” service.

Deborah has been a strong advocate in expanding the use of the Discovery Garden to educate the public about sound gardening practices. She trains interns and veteran MGs as docents for the Discovery Garden and developed and maintains the DG Docent pocket guides to assist them. She has supported more educational and Spanish language signage in the garden.  She has been an active participant in the annual, public outreach and educational Discovery Garden Ask a Master Gardener Day as well as for DIG-It!, our youth outreach program in the Discovery Garden.

Deborah championed placing MG Outreach Clinics at several Farmers’ Markets and ensured that they were supported with internet accessible tablets and appropriate resource materials broadening the influence of Master Gardeners throughout the county. She helped in the establishment of a dedicated SCMGF website which has facilitated the opportunity to provide expanded educational materials to the public and more support for members.

As one of a two-member team, Deborah initiated a Joint Counties MGF Forum in 2013 where representatives from 4-5 NW county foundation boards meet twice yearly to share best practices. This has proven to be a very productive ongoing meeting that has resulted in the exchange of useful information for all involved.

Alice Slusher has become the primary source of communication and education for the Longview/ Kelso community, Cowlitz County Master Gardeners and as a very active member of Askextension.org answering questions from across the state of Washington, the Pacific Northwest and countries around the world with plant problems and identification questions. She has been recognized by the State Master Gardener program and the Presidents Volunteer Service Award for the past three years for giving over 500 hours annually as a Master Gardener volunteer.

She uses her technical skills:

  • to design, develop and maintain the MGFCC Facebook page to announce community and MG activities, report program accomplishments and publicize workshops and  
  • to design, develop and maintain MGFCC Webpage to provide information to general public like Look Ahead, What’s happening in the garden next month, and private access for local Master Gardeners to access newsletter, interactive calendar and directory. 
  • to create countless posters, flyers and handouts to use online and in print announcing plant sales, workshops, trainings, and public events such as the Co-Victory Plant Give Away. 
  • to improve the overall quality of on-line classes and MG presentations. 
  • to support MGCC with ZOOM gatherings and instructions for joining said gatherings for foundation board meetings, the weekly Happy Hour at 10 am.  All the in-person classes have been reconfigured by Alice into Zoom instructional classes. 
  • to open a virtual Plant and Insect Clinic so we may continue to provide the public with answers to all their questions about insects, plant disease and identification.
  • to co-coordinate and teach weekly on-line gardening classes open to the public,
  • to coordinate an annual Advanced Master Garden Clinic training offered to Master Gardeners from  throughout Washington

She authors:

  • “Northwest Gardening” a monthly article for Columbia River Reader (SW WA magazine). 
  • a monthly article for and edits the monthly MGFCC newsletter
  • plus she contributes articles to Seeds for Thought.

Her knowledge of plant diseases and pests is the reason she has been sought out by the international askextension.org. This platform has increased community, state, national and international awareness of MGs. 

Her participation metrics for 2019 and 2020 demonstrate her ability to find answers to plant and insect problems using on-line WSU, PNW handbooks and other internet resources. 

During this difficult time she developed and implemented a virtual Plant and Insect clinic, thus providing a crucial service to the community and MGs. She continues to promote the virtual Plant and Insect Clinic through FB and WSU information emails. 

She developed and organized the Zoom platform for classes, continuing education and workshops, Doodle sign ups and Dropbox allowing MGs and the community to stay connected and safe during the time of COVID. 

Alice Slusher has improved the audio and visual quality of MG presentations and classes. She consistently posts MG workshops and events on Facebook that support MG programs such as sales, symposiums, home and garden fairs, county fairs and workshops. In 2018 she developed and implemented a Fall Symposium featuring MG speakers. She was instrumental in the successful distribution of co-victory garden plants using Facebook, newsletters and flyers. She organizes and promotes annual Continuing Education workshops using the Facebook page, emails, and the MG website This includes providing printed information and internet resources to attendees. 

Alice’s media activities are focused on the Master Gardener program. In addition to the activities mentioned above, she teaches classes for the community and other MGs online and, before 2020, in person.

Alice has used her knowledge, technology, writing and communication skills to increase the visibility of the Master Gardener program. Her creative talents, promotional efforts and media skill are a crucial part of communication to MG and the public regarding events, sales, presentations, workshops and trainings. Her articles and online publications provide pertinent information about gardening and increased community awareness of the MG program locally, throughout Cowlitz and surrounding counties.

Her contribution as communications director increased program participation of MG and the general public. This increased visibility led to stable funding for the program by the County Commissioners and has securing a local $15,000 grant to build a greenhouse to support juvenile detention youth education and volunteer activities.

She established an on-line communication capability within our foundation during the Pandemic shutdown which allowed MG to attend foundation meetings and education opportunities safely. She continues to guide and support new trainees virtually during this time of Covid, helping them with on-line technical problems and creating power point presentations. She attends most of the training programs and teaches some of the classes through Zoom.

Her communication and people skills allow her to easily interact with the trainees, encouraging them to become more involved with volunteer activities through leadership, presentations and workshops.

As the Foundation president for Cowlitz County, her leadership skills along with her media communication and writing skills have promoted the program to reach new audiences with gardening information.

Her greatest skill lies in the Plant and Insect Clinic. Her mastery of on-line resources such as Hortsense, PNW handbooks and web search engines allow her to quickly solve problems. Alice’s participation metrics demonstrate her exceptional capabilities in this area. Since her involvement, questions are usually answered in less than 12 hours. The number of questions from the general public has almost doubled in the last 4 years. Prior to her presence in the clinic, about ten samples were sent to the state lab at WSU every year. That number has been reduced to one annually.

Her teaching ability continues to expand her visibility. She is sought after by local and out of county organizations to speak on aspects of gardening. Other MG chapters have contacted her to provide trainings for their clientele. The Master Gardener program in Cowlitz County also continues to expand due to Alice’s communication skills.

Prior to her participation in the program training was offered every other year averaging 17 trainees attending. Since Alice has taken over as communication leader in the county program, membership continues to grow. The program has been offered annually for the last three years with increasing attendance culminating with 37 attending in 2020 (the biggest class ever for the program).  The number of Master Gardeners in Cowlitz County has grown from 86 to 114 in three years. Our program is well known and highly respected throughout the county thanks to Alice’s media skills. 

Kathleen Eaton trained as a Master Gardener in 2011 with the Snohomish County Program and has reported over 3,400 hours total. In 2016 she was awarded the State Media Award. Kathleen worked as part of the team that made the 2013 Advanced Education Conference in Everett the great success that it was. She was appointed Snohomish County Representative to the MGFWS Board for County. She soon responded to the urgent need for a new direction for the State Foundation, and volunteered to run for, and was elected MGFWS Board President. Right away Kathleen began to formulate a plan to rejuvenate the State Foundation, providing inspiration, innovation and leadership.

Upon her husband’s retirement, they relocated to Arizona. In spite of that distance, she remains involved in Washington State Master Gardener matters, contributing her insight, support, and monetary donations to our State Foundation.

She arranged for a sponsor to bring in a professional facilitator who helped the Board identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A new mission and purpose were developed. She organized a cadre of other leaders on the board and held planning retreats at her home, whereby today’s board structure was born. She was bold enough, and optimistic enough about the future of MGFWS, that she almost single-handedly began the campaign to raise enough money in an endowment to fund future MG advanced education into perpetuity.

As a leader not only in her home MG chapter, but at the head of the State Foundation, Kathleen’s work has had, and will continue to have an effect on thousands of MGs across the state. Many MG volunteers will gain advanced education opportunities over many, many years because of her vision. The quality of work done today in the MGFWS is a tribute to Kathleen’s vision and leadership.

One of the most significant accomplishments of her term was to set us on a path to host the Advanced Education Conference, which comes to fruition in 2021. No better time and place to recognize Kathleen’s impact on the statewide MG program, than at this first State Foundation – sponsored Advanced Education Conference.

The 2020 Ellen A’Key King County Master Gardener Foundation Grant was awarded to Cowlitz County Master Gardeners: Master Gardener Greenhouse for At-risk Youth.  CCMGs are improving a gardening space previously used by Loowit High School students in Master Gardener-directed raised bed gardens. We believe participating in learning to grow vegetables and other plants will provide them with valuable life skills and introduce them to alternatives to unlawful behavior. The greatly appreciated grant funds will be used soon for lighting, seedling mats/thermostats, storage, utility sink and floor mats. Two fans are already installed. Covid-19 problems have slowed the construction however we are confident the area will be ready for the Cowlitz Co. youth from Juvenile Services Center, court-directed community service and students from Loowit High School to begin Master Gardener-directed greenhouse gardening activities in the next few months.

2019 Award Winners

MaryJo Christensen has been an active WSU Master Gardener in Lewis County MG Since 2000, averaging over 450 volunteer hours each year.

2000-Completed WSU Master Gardener training
2003-Home & Garden Show co coordinator
2004-VP Programs, Home & Garden Show coordinator 
2005-07 President of Master Gardener Foundation of Lewis County, MGFLC
2006-Recipient of the Lewis County Master Gardener of the Year
2008-Past President, MG library committee, In house plant clinic scheduler (hand written) and plant sale coordinator  
2009-VP of Educational Outreach, In house plant clinics scheduler
2010-Treasurer, Historian, In house plant clinic scheduler
2011-Treasurer, committees; Gardening for Everyone, Southwest WA Fair, Plant sale, Tree recycling, Program speakers, Youth Outreach
2012-Treasurer, committees; Home & Garden Show, Southwest WA. Fair (SWWF) committee, Youth Outreach, Historian. 
2012-14 Youth Outreach team at RE Bennett Grade School
2013-Treasurer, Historian, MGFLC 33-year reunion celebration   
2014-Treasurer, Historian
2015-Treasurer, Historian
2016-Treasurer, Historian, Coordinator of SWWF Demonstration Garden
2017-Treasurer, Historian, Coordinator of SWWF Demonstration Garden
2012-18 SW Region VP
2017-Present Superintendent SWW Fair Agriculture Department 
2018-present Treasurer, Historian, Coordinator of SWW Fair Demonstration Garden, In house plant clinics scheduler (on line)

Shortly after completing her WSU Master Gardener training MaryJo Christensen immersed herself within the WSU MG Extension and Lewis County Master Gardener program volunteering for leadership roles with various committees and as an officer. As a volunteer at the Providence Place Demonstration Garden she designed and maintained a Hummingbird area garden for 16 years. 

MaryJo has continuously held an officer position for Master Gardener Foundation of Lewis County (MGFLC) beginning in 2004 as VP of Programs, obtaining speakers for membership meetings, and sought after guest speakers for the public such as Cisco Morris, Ed Hume, and Maryanne Binetti for the Lewis County Home and Garden Show working with the local Chamber of Commerce.

She has also given numerous informative public speaking presentations throughout her past 19 years as a WSU Master Gardener. In 2005 MaryJo spent three years as MGFLC President followed by one year as Past President. Beginning in 2005 she spent five years organizing the schedules of the Master Gardener volunteers the ‘old fashioned way’ as they emailed her to sign up, she would hand write them into the schedule.

MaryJo was recognized by her peers and honored as Lewis Counties Master Gardener of the Year in 2006. The following year she advocated the establishment of the second registered Monarch Butterfly Waystation in SW Washington at the Providence Place Demonstration Garden contributing to monarch conservation. In 2009 she again volunteered as an officer as VP of Educational Outreach.

From 2010 to present, MaryJo has taken the responsibility as both Treasurer and Historian for the MGFLC, she has been the perfect person for these positions with her keen attention to detail. During 2012-2018 she was also our SWW Region VP for the State Foundation. Her involvement in various committees through the years has been The Lewis County Home and Garden Show, Plant Sale coordinator, Gardening for Everyone, Southwest WA. Fair MG displays, Christmas tree recycling, MGFLC 33-year reunion celebration, (created MGFLC history slide show), Youth Outreach, working to educate the next generation and LCMG cook book project.

She promoted the idea of lanyards and recognition pins awarded to Master Gardeners for outstanding service and appreciation for their accomplishments. In 2016 she secured land at Southwest Washington Fairgrounds for an educational Demonstration Garden, designing it, recruiting volunteers to help build the plantings and hardscape, installing signage and maintaining the education materials. This Demo garden engages the public year-round. She again took the task of the volunteer scheduler in 2018, this time on line.

For the past three years outside of Master Garden program, MaryJo has further advanced the promotion of gardening for youth and adult ages by serving as SWW Fair Superintendent of the Agriculture Department, encouraging County Extension participation by Master Gardeners Foundation of Lewis County, Master Recycler Composters of Lewis County, Noxious weeds; as well as encouraging vegetable/flower fair entries from LC extension volunteers.

MaryJo Christensen has been a steadfast, diligent member of the WSU Lewis County Master Gardeners for nineteen years. During that time, she has been committed to advocating the local Master Gardener Program and the ongoing education for the local community.

Her participation within the Master Gardeners has played a vital role on both State and local County levels of the Master Gardeners program. She has been a strong supporter for the preservation of pollinators, safe gardening practices and educational guidance for children and adults. She has additionally held a strong MG presence with the local county fairground for many years. She is present as a volunteer at a majority of Lewis County Master Gardener functions and sets a good example for other volunteers to follow as a team player and as a leader.

She is well known and loved in our community through her volunteerism and public involvement. Her commitment, passion, honesty and integrity come into play in all she does. MaryJo has held a deep dedication towards the WSU Master Gardeners program and its continued success, which she has considerably contributed to. The State MGoY selection committee agrees MaryJo Christensen’s involvement has been beneficial on both State and local levels, earning the acknowledgement and appreciation as a valued member.

–from the nomination submission.

In making their selections, the Awards Committee noted that these two Master Gardeners, using differing media forms over many years, have brought a positive message about our program to their communities and their fellow MGs.

In Pierce County, Dana Courtright has developed and maintains an internal Facebook page for MGs, and an external Facebook page for the public, as well as an Instagram page. Nearly 3500 followers on the public Facebook page demonstrates the reach of her communications across the community, while the internal page ensures volunteer opportunities, announcements, reminders, etc., are readily available to the large base of active MGs. The combined impacts of these social media platforms provide a highly effective communications strategy for Pierce County.

Meanwhile, in Spokane County, Susan Mulvihill has been writing, speaking and interviewing about gardening over several decades. Her contributions range from Master Gardener booklets, newspaper articles, guides and videos, to interviews, teaching, lectures, seminars, and radio & TV appearances. Also of note is the fact that her Northwest Gardener’s Handbook is a top 10 PNW region gardening seller on Amazon, receiving many positive reviews.

These outstanding colleagues of ours provide a welcoming message to current and future gardeners and positive exposure for the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program, and for this we thank them!

Nomination Criteria

State Master Gardener of the Year

This lifetime award recognizes an active WSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer that has (as measured against the MGFWS mission statement) demonstrated their commitment to the Master Gardener Program by providing leadership at the county and state levels, having had significant statewide or broader impact on the program, and  having made a lasting contribution to the Master Gardener Program.

Ed LaCrosse Distinguished Service Award

This Lifetime award recognizes someone who has had a significant statewide (or broader) impact on the WSU Master Gardener Program or has acted on behalf of the MGFWS.   Nominees need not be Master Gardeners (MG).

Not sure which lifetime award is appropriate for your nominee?   

The primary distinctions between the awards are:

  1. Active WSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are eligible for either award, while non-MG nominees are not eligible for the State Master Gardener of the Year (MGoY) Award.
  2. The State MGoY Award focuses on the nominee’s commitment to the program as demonstrated by a strong history of providing leadership and building a legacy within the county and state program.  A winner of the state MGoY awards will be widely recognized within the state-wide program, but may not be as well known to the general public.
  3. The Ed LaCrosse Award focuses on the impact the nominee’s achievements have had on the  state-wide MG program and/or the MGFWS.  The contributions of the Ed Lacrosse Award winner may be internal to the MG program (e.g., significantly increasing volunteer recruitment/retention, implementing innovative methods of educational delivery, developing effective fund raising activities, etc.) or external (e.g., significantly increasing the public’s awareness and appreciation of the MG program, gaining significant financial support of the MG program from government and private sources, developing MG program support from corporations and alumni, etc.).

About Ed LaCrosse (1927-2020) …Ed LaCrosse

Ed LaCrosse was a gifted leader with integrity, commitment, a legendary knowledge of native plants and a willingness to educate and bring together community volunteers.  Ed completed his Master Gardener training in 1991, and was active for 25 years in a variety of roles.

He served at King County MG Clinics, plant sales, and became a board member and President of the King County MG Foundation in the 1990s. He went on to be Board Member and President of the MG Foundation of Washington State, 1999-2006, and served as Historian for the State Foundation. 

In 2008, the State Foundation Distinguished Service Award was renamed the Edward LaCrosse Service Award in recognition of his commitment, involvement and service. WSU recognized his contributions to the MG Program with a dedication and planting a Sequoia tree with plaque at the WSU Research Center in Puyallup.

Ed was named Washington State Master Gardener of the Year at the 2010 Master Gardener Advanced Education Conference in Vancouver, Washington.  In 2013, the mayor and City of Kent recognized Ed for over 15 years of coordinating Volunteer Services at the Neeley-Soames Historical MG Demonstration Gardens in Kent. He was a member and Steward of the Native Plant Society, spoke often for the King County MG Speakers Bureau on Native Plant Gardening, and led the development and maintenance of the Native Plant Garden at Wesley Homes in Des Moines, WA.

While Ed was honored with emeritus status in 2012, our state-wide WSU Master Gardener program continues to enjoy the benefits of his legacy.  Link to Ed’s Obituary

Media Award

The Media Award recognizes an individual who frequently contributes to one or more WA media covering gardening topics, education, and demonstrations, emphasizing the WSU MG Program.

The Master Gardener of the Year winner will be recognized and given the award by the Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State (MGFWS). The Master Gardener of the Year (MGoY) winner will be featured in an article in the MGFWS Newsletter, “Seeds For Thought”, and on the MGFWS website.

Nominations will be accepted from Washington State Master Gardener County Chapters and submitted only on the WGFWS Master Gardener of the Year Nomination form. Only one nomination can be accepted per County Chapter per year. This is a lifetime award and is an individual, not shared award. 

The criteria for selection of the Washington State Master Gardener of the Year Award are as follows:

The MGoY Nominee Must:

  1. Be an active WSU Master Gardener using the state foundation mission statement to guide their actions on all levels.
  2. Demonstrate commitment by meeting or exceeding all Master Gardener Program volunteer hour requirements in both state and county.
  3. Have held leadership roles in the Master Gardener Program both state and county e.g. board member, committee chairperson, special event and/or education project coordinator, etc.
  4. Contribute a legacy, a lasting contribution to the state and county Master Gardener Program through, for example: education, environmental stewardship, community involvement, etc.
  5. Have a significant statewide or broader impact on the WSU Master Gardener Program or have acted on behalf of the MGFWS.

Each candidate’s entry will be ranked based on the information submitted for each of the above criteria, using a 1-5 scoring system for each, with 5 as the high score. Nominations for the MGoY award must be received by the MGFWS Awards Selection Committee (awardsmgfws@gmail.com ) by July 1st of the year the award is to be presented.

The Awards Selection Committee chairperson will with a 4-6 person committee choose the best candidate from the nominees. The award will be given at the annual MGFWS Advanced-Education Conference or as designated by the MGFWS Board.

Download the application form

This Lifetime award recognizes someone who has had a significant statewide (or broader) impact on the WSU Master Gardener Program or has acted on behalf of the MGFWS.   Nominees need not be Master Gardeners (MG).

Criteria
May be a current or past WSU Master Gardener, affiliated with a related organization, etc.

Has demonstrated their commitment to the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program through their length of continuing support of the MG program.   

Has had a significant, positive, statewide impact on the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program.  Specifically, the nominee’s impact on the program is:

   –   Significant and of proven value across the state,
   –   Of wide breadth & deep reach,
   –   Is sustainable and replicable across the state,
   –   Expected to maintain its value for years to come.  

Here is the nomination form.

The criteria for selection of the Media Award are as follows:

The MGFWS Media Award recognizes an individual who frequently contributes to one or more Washington media covering garden topics, education, demonstrations, etc. emphasizing the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program and making a significant and enduring positive impact on the program.

Nominations can be made by county programs, Washington State University (WSU) or Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State (MGFWS) members.
Please use the Word file form to submit your application, expanding it to no more than two pages. The awards committee will choose the winner based on these ratings detailed on the form. (1-5; 5 is the high score.)
The award will be presented at the annual WSU/MGFWS Advanced-Education Conference or as designated by the MGFWS Board.

Here is the nomination form

The Ellen A’Key King County Master Gardener Foundation Grant is available to the non-urban counties of Washington State. Those counties are encouraged to peruse the Ellen A’Key Grant site at Master Gardener Foundation of King County: mgfkc.org/resources/ellen-akey-grant. These words are part of the introduction to the grant: “Through this program we hope to foster innovation and creativity, stimulate problem solving and creative solutions, encourage a sense of unity and community among all Master Gardeners in our state, and to make possible programs that otherwise might struggle or never be able to progress beyond the planning stage.”

A photo of your candidate MUST be submitted with all nomination packages. Photo quality requirements are:

  1. Submit .jpgs as they come from a digital camera with no alterations.
  2. If items need to be cropped, provide instructions.
  3. DO NOT use phone cameras, as the resolution is generally inferior. However, newer phones and iPads may be adequate.
  4. Size should be 2 Mg. at a minimum.

photo-criteria

The Media and EdLaCrosse Awards were designed as individual awards. However, an organization can submit nominations for sharing either of these awards if:

  1. Both individuals contributed equally for the nominated award.
  2. The nominating organization can show that nominees worked substantially as a team in qualifying for the award.

An individual may receive any and all of MGFWS Awards once.

Nominees nominated for more than one award in a single year will be requested to choose one nomination process.

The Awards Committee reserves the right to make the choice if more than one organization has submitted a nominee for recognition.