Soil stewards

News | May 23, 2024

It takes many hands to keep the St. Paul campus looking its best. The Memorial Garden, the sidewalks, parking lots, the front entrance, and all sides of St. Paul need lots of loving care like mowing, weeding, planting, pruning, and more. A group of nature-minded individuals keep St. Paul looking tidy and welcoming.

Cultivating care
Peg Iglehart cultivates care in all things. She’s thoughtful and precise. She’s currently decked out in a shirt that says, “I love gardening from my head tomatoes,” a perfect fit for this interview. In her arms are a stack of t-shirts and a bowl of pinecones. Peg loves nature and takes care to preserve the things that are important to her.

Growing up in an unincorporated area in the Chicago suburbs on an expanse of land is where her love of everything nature came into play.

“When I was born, my parents bought a house on four acres of land with massive bur oak trees, some apple trees, and grapevines on the property. I remember my grandmother and my mom used those grapes to make jelly,” Peg said. “It was a wonderful place to grow up. I have fond memories of being out in nature with my family. My mom would sit out on the front lawn with us kids and look at the clouds and nature. The oak leaves were a lot of work when they would begin to fall but my family made it fun to blow and take care of the leaves together.”

Peg has spent much of her life immersed in gardening. She is a founding member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters annual plant sale, instills a love of nature in those around her, and is a master gardener.

“I say I’m a master at nothing in particular,” Peg laughs. “I’m a tree hugger and native plant lover by nature but since becoming a master gardener, I’ve learned much about biodiversity and how the right plants in the right places support nature. Oak trees have become a keystone, the most essential native tree in our country, for the pivotal role they play in the food chain. These trees support many species of mammals, birds, insects, all various species that need oak trees to survive. That’s what I’m passionate about. I like the garden to be beautiful but also contain the right plants for the area and for the biodiversity of that location.”

Peg finds many parallels between life and faith and gardening.

“Faith is a journey and gardening is a journey. There is no better place to be faithful and hopeful than while gardening. You hope what you’re planting will be the right fit but if it’s not, you can keep searching for what is the best fit. That’s also a journey of spirituality.”

Last year, Peg joined a group of earth-minded St. Paul people to create a campus care group, known as the Soil Stewards, dedicated to keeping the St. Paul campus beautiful and thriving. You may have spotted Peg around Holy Week, freshening up the campus greenery for Easter.

“I began my volunteer work focusing on the Memorial Garden, but I noticed other things to be done around the campus. It’s a big campus to work on so a group was needed to accomplish everything. You can do parts of this work by yourself which I find peaceful but for the larger jobs, a team is needed. Just like in life. Gardening and life’s journey aren’t done alone. There are solitary parts, but for the harder jobs of getting through life, you must accept help and

be open to help. I call that help God’s grace. The people who help with this group do it for the joy of meeting others who do it for the joy of meeting others.”

Peg also has a very personal tie to the St. Paul Memorial Garden, a longtime close friendship with St. Paul member Bonnie Fox, whose ashes were spread in the garden just a few years ago.

“Bonnie Fox and I started walking together in the mid-80s. We spent years walking and talking together, getting to know each other, and creating a community of women. I do this for Bonnie, and for anyone to have a beautiful, hopeful place to go when they visit their loved one.”

First impressions
First impressions are important and the Crocketts know how to help St. Paul make a great first impression for those driving by on Brady Street.

Jeannine and Dave Crockett jump in and lend a hand or an idea whenever it’s needed. They’re both idea-people and executors, turning ideas into reality. The completion of a project gives them a sense of accomplishment.

While Jeannine was helping out in the business office years ago, she struck up a friendship with then building manager Harris Schneekloth. Jeannine recalls looking out over the Memorial Garden and marveling at its beauty.

“One day Harris came in my office, and I told him ‘I’d love to be out there doing what you’re doing on the grounds,’” Jeannine recalled. “So, he signed me up to help. We started doing mulch and then expanded into more of the campus.”

Later, when Jeannine served on the church council, she mentioned the idea of sprucing up the St. Paul sign, a highly visible first impression of St. Paul for the many cars driving past on Brady Street. Jeannine and Dave were instrumental in the update and beautification of the sign.

“We’ve had a good life and believe that volunteering is part of any good society, church, or school so it’s important to us to give back. If you have any interest in gardening, in the outdoors, see what this campus care group is about,” Jeannine said. “You can plant flowers or bushes, you can rake. You don’t have to be strong or physical. There are a variety of things to be done that anyone can help with. This group is very inclusive of all people and skill levels.”

“It’s also beneficial to the person who volunteers. It helps maintain social relationships and for someone who is retired it gives you something productive to do, which is important,” Dave said. “We’ve been blessed in all that’s around us. The flowers, the plants, the birds. All of that is God’s work and nurturing it is important to us.”

Join the soil stewards
Interested in caring for the grounds of St. Paul while finding fellowship with others? Do you have a love for the outdoors, a passion for landscaping, or are looking to volunteer in new ways? The Soil Stewards are looking for earth-minded individuals open to making connections with others. Help plant, transplant, weed, trim, and keep the grounds looking beautiful. Interested in lending a green thumb or two? Open to anyone. Contact: Peg Iglehart,

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