When you have a spare moment before or after church, take some time to walk around Trinity and drink in the splendor we may sometimes take for granted. You’ll see a variety of trees, bushes, plants, and flowers, and all of these are taken care of by many volunteers from the congregation. Two of those volunteers are the focus of this month’s Servant Spotlight. Sam Hunt and Gary Wattnem, members of the Grounds Crew, talked about their passion for working outside and helping to beautify Trinity’s grounds. Each has their specialty and feels called to use their talents this way.
Along with Hunt, Roger Schlitter and Paul Charlson make up “The Waterboys.” They water the flowers on the west side of Trinity along with any newly-planted trees. Each has a specified day for their job. “Friday is my day to water,” Hunt said with a grin. Since he planted a couple of new trees recently, Hunt likes to focus on giving them their best start by watering frequently. The two newest trees are London Plane trees, which are part of the sycamore family. The London Planes are supposed to be more disease-resistant and are in the spots where two ash trees were removed due to poor health, thanks to the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer beetle.
Why were London Plane trees chosen to go in these spots? Hunt answered, “Everyone plants maples. It’s fun to have a different variety of trees.” He relayed a story about his first boss at a nursery where he worked in his high school years in Atlantic, Iowa. It was about the time that Dutch Elm disease was rampant, killing most of the elm trees. It seemed everyone wanted to plant ash trees in place of their elms, and the owner of the nursery warned that something may happen to all of the ash trees someday as well. He was a huge proponent of planting various types of trees for that reason. “He was way ahead of his time,” Hunt said.
Hunt talks about trees the way some people talk about their pets. He pointed out the ginkgo tree and talked about how it is such a fun tree to watch in the fall. The leaves turn a bright yellow, and all of a sudden, in 24-48 hours, all the leaves drop at once. He is amazed by all of Trinity’s trees, even though he “feels sorry for them” because there is asphalt everywhere. Somehow, though, the trees develop extensive root systems to survive, and somehow, most of the trees are thriving.
Go on a little walk from the parking lot to the courtyard and you’ll notice an area that is roped off. An ash tree and a “scrubby” tree were removed in this spot, where a new buckeye tree stands in its place. Although it’s small now, it will grow to be 40-60 feet tall, at a rate of 10-12 inches per year. A Fall project involves filling up
the soil in this roped-off area and planting grass seeds.
Look behind the two permanent benches in the courtyard to see a beautiful basswood tree. And then turn around and simply look up. The tallest tree in the courtyard is a catalpa tree, one of the largest Hunt has ever seen. “I’m a tree person,” he said with a smile. “I just like different trees!” He added, “It’s kind of unique for a church to be blessed with the property we have. A lot of churches may hire outdoor work to be done, but we have so many volunteers doing it.” He looked over at a favorite tree and had this to say about being a part of the Grounds Crew: “It provides a sense of belonging and helps you take pride in your church.” Helping make things look good is why he keeps coming every Friday to do his part in beautifying Trinity’s outside.
It certainly takes a village to keep Trinity’s grounds looking as breathtaking as they do. From Hunt’s tree expertise and watering skills to the mowing crew who keeps the grass looking its best, Trinity has a great team of volunteers, according to Gary Wattnem. “We have TONS of volunteers,” he said, “and they do things like mow, plant, trim, water, seed, sod, clean, and even paint or do minor remodeling and general maintenance.”
Wattnem explained, “We’ve got a whole city block to maintain and a huge building always in need of something.” Volunteers are so valuable to Trinity, and Wattnem couldn’t say enough about them. In fact, if anyone wants to help on the Grounds Crew, all it takes is a quick call to Wattnem or the church office. “We’re happy to have them!” he exclaimed.
His own participation on the Grounds Crew has been around ten years or more. “I love to keep busy, and I enjoy being outside,” he said. “I love keeping Trinity looking good inside and outside!” Wattnem’s favorite job is mowing, and like Hunt’s watering rotation, Wattnem also has a rotating mowing schedule. “We mow once a week,” he said, “and we have different crews that trade-off every month.”
The pride that Wattnem has for Trinity is apparent in how he talks about this special place. With a twinkle in his eye, he stressed the importance of “keeping up with the painting, keeping the sanctuary and building in good repair, and the ground looking good!” Thank you to Sam, Gary, and ALL of Trinity’s Grounds Crew for working hard to keep Trinity looking beautiful. From the blades of grass to the towering trees, Trinity is blessed to have such faithful and hard-working volunteers.†