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Nature Foundation kicks off 2024 with new leader, new garden tour event

A woman wearing black stands in a prairie.
Tara Neff, executive director of The Nature Foundation of Will County (Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

The Nature Foundation of Will County is starting 2024 with a new leader and a new garden tour event. 

Tara Neff has taken over as Foundation executive director succeeding Cindy Harn, who will remain on with the organization in charge of native plant sales and the online Learn and Grow seminars. 

Gardens are being sought now for the July 13 garden tour. And online seminars and native plant sales also will be on tap in 2024. (See below for details.)

Foundation 2.0

A longtime Will county resident, Neff brings experience working with non-profit agencies, all levels of government, and most recently, served as the Will County Program Director at The Conservation Foundation. 

“I’m looking forward to leading the Foundation and its Board into Foundation 2.0,” she said. “Having a separate non-profit arm opens up funding opportunities not available to government agencies. If we can bring in new sources of funding, it leverages taxpayer dollars to do more.” 

The Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), so all donations are 100% tax deductible. To discover all the ways you can contribute, visit the Foundation's website

Neff also said she will work on maintaining and expanding the Foundation’s donor base and improving website and social media efforts.

Created in 2010, the Nature Foundation of Will County held its first Board meeting in 2014. So, this is the 10th anniversary of the organization’s work to assist the Forest Preserve District, Neff said. 

In the past decade, the Foundation has donated around $1.4 million to the Forest Preserve District in support of education, recreation and conservation programs including habitat restoration work, art and interpretation initiatives, traveling exhibitions and preserve amenities for the public. 

Neff has also been working with Forest Preserve staff to learn more about their needs and how the Foundation can help support them.

“Building relationships and making connections strengthens the Foundation,” she said. “And the end goal is taking care of nature, helping people experience nature and educating them about the benefits of nature.”

Here are some Foundation activities planned for 2024: 

Garden tour

The Gardens Gone Native – Will County Native Plant Garden Tour will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 13. Gardens are being sought now to be featured on the tour. To have your garden considered, you must submit an application prior to midnight on Sunday, March 3. Gardens that are within 10 to 15 miles of the Will County border will be considered. Tour tickets cost $20 and they will go on sale at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 6. 

Learn & Grow Seminars

Registration is open now for free Learn & Grow online seminars

  • Gardening in the Shade, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, Zoom webinar. Benjamin Vogt, of Monarch Gardens LLC, will give tips on shade gardening. 
  • Gardening with Native Plants Through the Season, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, Zoom webinar. Denise Sandoval, of Good Natured Landscapes LLC, will help you discover plants that are beautiful, versatile and easy to grow. 

Native plant sales

Several native plant sales are planned including online and at Forest Preserve events. 

Bringing Nature Home Native Plant Sale runs online from 9 a.m. Saturday, April 6, through 4 p.m. Saturday, April 27. The online order pickup and pop-up sale will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18, and 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, May 19, at Isle a la Cache preserve in Romeoville. 

The Summer Blooms Native Plant Sale runs online from 9 a.m. Saturday, June 22, through 4 p.m. Saturday, July 13. The online order pickup and pop-up sale will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, and from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, Aug. 4. at Isle a la Cache preserve.

Additional plant sales will take place at Forest Preserve events including: Pollinator Party, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15, Isle a la Cache preserve; Hummingbird Fest, 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township; and Fall on the Farm, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, Riverview Farmstead Preserve in Naperville. 

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