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posted: 7/15/2014 7:24 AM

Hoffman Estates Resident Named Chicago Botanic Garden Volunteer of the Year

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  • Rodger McDowall was named Volunteer of the Year at an awards reception at the Chicago Botanic Garden on June 11, 2014. Robin Carlson

    Rodger McDowall was named Volunteer of the Year at an awards reception at the Chicago Botanic Garden on June 11, 2014. Robin Carlson

Hannah Nowicki

Rodger McDowall, of Hoffman Estates, was named the 2013 Chicago Botanic Garden Volunteer of the Year at a recent awards reception acknowledging the ongoing dedication and support of more than 2,000 volunteers. The award, launched in 1984, recognizes the spirit of volunteering by focusing attention on the contributions given by all volunteers as well as honors one volunteer for his or her outstanding service.

McDowall has contributed more than 2,800 hours of service since he began volunteering at the Garden in 2008. McDowall dedicated his time and leadership abilities to the Garden as a vital team member of Plant Information, Plant Production, Grounds Cover Newsletter Committee, and at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show and The Orchid Show. After a successful career, McDowall retired as the president of a business division at AT&T and became a certified master gardener through the University of Illinois in 2012.

Sophia Shaw, president and CEO of the Garden, presented the award and marveled at McDowall's accomplishments. Shaw quoted one of McDowall's supervisors who said, "I can't say enough about this volunteer. What would we do without him?"

McDowall was praised for promoting the strategic plan of the Garden and never shying away from a project. He spent six volunteer shifts a month with the Plant Information Services department answering plant related questions in person and from voicemails, emails, and Facebook. In 2013, he donated 43 hours of his time at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show and two full days per week in the Plant Production outdoor floriculture department.

Also recognized was Rosemary Hart, of Chicago, who received the Barbara Whitney Carr Excellence in Leadership Award for her breathtaking photographs and work as a Living Plant Documentation volunteer team leader. Hart has contributed more than 4,200 hours of service since she began volunteering in 2000. She spends much of her time archiving important documents for the Lenhardt Library. Rhoda Muchmore, a resident of Highland Park, was awarded the Five Star Customer Service Award for consistently going above and beyond to provide spectacular customer service to Garden visitors. Throughout her 20 years at the Garden, Muchmore has volunteered with weekend programs, special events, the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden, the membership desk in the Visitor Center and adult continuing education classes. Susie Mahon, of Highland Park, named the Garden's Super Senior, has dedicated more than 3,500 hours of service. Mahon currently volunteers her time at the Garden's Rice Plant Conservation Science Center.

Judy Cashen, director of volunteer administration and engagement, thanked all the volunteers for their important work and continued support of the Garden. Among their many contributions, the volunteers were instrumental in achieving a new visitation record of one million visitors to the Garden in 2013. Cashen was gleaming as she shared her experience working with this amazing group, saying, "It is humbling to be part of this wonderful organization with such great people. We could not do what we do without your support and friendship."

All volunteers were recognized for their contributions and support of the Garden, including those who volunteered for five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 years. 2013 marked 40 years of volunteering for Marilyn Alaimo, who has contributed nearly 8,000 hours of her time to school programs, walking tours, the information desk, and Lenhardt Library. Each volunteer received a butterfly weed plant (Asclepias curassavica 'Silky Formula Mix') with a plant care description from Brian Clark, manager of plant production, who worked with the plant production team to grow the plants from seeds.

In 2013, the Chicago Botanic Garden had more than 2,000 volunteers contribute their time and knowledge giving more than 112,000 hours of service. For information on volunteer opportunities at the Chicago Botanic Garden, call (847) 835-8392 or visit the Garden's website at