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Nearly 22,000 Volunteer Hours Contributed by Master Gardeners

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Master Gardeners learn from experience as well as in the classroom. A loaned hoop house provided instruction on how to grow produce under cover.

Master Gardeners learn from experience as well as in the classroom. A loaned hoop house provided instruction on how to grow produce under cover.

Volunteers with the Master Gardeners of Greene County contributed 21,671 volunteer hours to the community during 2015. At just over $22 per hour, that’s nearly $500,000. In fact, one calculation estimates that the Gross Domestic Product is actually about 20 percent higher each year because of voluntarism.

In 2009, there were nearly 95,000 active Extension Master Gardeners, who provide approximately 5,000,000 volunteer service hours of per year to their communities.

Valuation of volunteer time provides one measure of the impact individuals make with each hour they dedicate to making a difference. In fact, the United Way of the Ozarks organizes “Making a Difference Day” each year just so each of us can dedicate just one work day to helping organizations tackle projects that require a concentration of efforts.

Independent Sector, a non-profit organization calculates a value for each volunteer hour state by state. The national average hourly value of volunteer time is $22.14. The average hourly value in Missouri is placed at $19.

The formula from has become the national standard for the purpose of valuing volunteer time in the community.

During the year, Master Gardener chapter track their volunteer hours on projects approved by leadership of Master Gardeners of Greene County. Those forms are submitted by members to the Greene County Extension office in order to document the necessary number of hours required to retain active membership in the chapter. The total hours reported in Greene County were submitted by 225 “active” Master Gardeners. Members may also count time working for other related organizations and even the community, such as Friends of the Garden or Springfield Community Gardens.

“There are always ongoing discussions of the value of Master Gardener volunteer service to the community with potential donors, the Greene County Commission and others in reference to the continued importance of Greene County Extension,” says David Burton. “My hat is off to Patrick Byers and Kelly McGowan for their leadership and training of the local Master Gardeners, and members of the Master Gardener chapter for such great work.”

Kay Johnson, a Master Garden member from Springfield, volunteers his talents at the new rooftop garden atop Hickory Hills School. He also volunteers at the Demonstration Garden planted each year at the Springfield Botanical Gardens.

Kay Johnson, a Master Garden member from Springfield, volunteers his talents at the new rooftop garden atop Hickory Hills School. He also volunteers at the Demonstration Garden planted each year at the Springfield Botanical Gardens.

A number of projects generate volunteer hours for Master Gardeners of Greene County, as well as for chapters in other counties. Just a few of the possible projects include: Master Gardener Basic and Advance Training classes, Potting Shed University classes, various community garden classes, Hotline Garden information, assistance with the “Ask a Master Gardener” column, Young Sprouts in the Garden, Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens (at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park), Xeriscape Garden, Lawn & Garden Show with classes, community speakers bureau, Hickory Hills School Greenhouse and Gardens, Springfield Botanical Gardens, Master Gardeners spring plant sale, and community garden tours.

This year, Master Gardeners had several projects that resulted in large numbers of volunteer hours. For example: volunteers reported 2,917 volunteer hours at the demonstration garden in Nathanael Greene Park, 1,505 volunteer hours operating the Master Gardener Hotline inside the Botanical center, 1,101 volunteer hours maintaining the Xeriscape Garden on South National.

The Master Gardener program is a popular and successful statewide volunteer community-service organization administered through University of Missouri Extension. It also exists in many other states, and similar organizations like Master Naturalists train and volunteer as well.

Each organization trains gardeners willing to share their knowledge with others once they complete their training in horticulture. Learn more about the Master Gardeners of Greene County online at mggreene.org.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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