“St. Peter’s Weeders: Keeping Church Grounds Heavenly”

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church: A Historic and Scenic Landmark

The Role of St. Peter’s Weeders in Maintaining the Church Grounds

St. Peter’s Weeders is a group of dedicated volunteers responsible for maintaining the grounds of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lewes, Delaware. They take their gardening work seriously and consider the flower beds their altar. The group has been gathering to garden since 2004 and has successfully kept the grounds of the first church in the First Town in the First State in first-rate condition.

The Love for Gardening Among the Volunteer Group

The volunteers in St. Peter’s Weeders love gardening. Some of them, like volunteer Anne Broomfield, find the church’s surroundings reminiscent of countryside churches in England. “To me, coming from England, this is how our churches are in the countryside of England. So, it’s a very special place for me.”

The Contributions of Tracy Mulveny, a Horticulturalist, to the Group

Tracy Mulveny, a volunteer who went back to school to become a horticulturist and started her own business, was instrumental to the group’s development. Having noticed how hot and bare the church surroundings were, she proposed to the vestry that she plant some trees, which she did. Together with her husband, John Feliciani, who was the director of horticulture and curator of gardens at Winterthur for 23 years, they planted the trees and provided wise counsel and muscle to the group.

Helen Waite: St. Peter’s First Paid Gardener

Helen Waite is St. Peter’s first paid gardener whose responsibilities also include maintaining St. Peter’s Cemetery on Pilottown Road. Waite has been working for the church for two years and has made significant contributions to the upkeep of the churchyard. The Rev. Jeffrey Ross calls her a “wonderful gardner who understands the importance of nature and beauty for everyday life.”

The Challenges of Maintaining the Church Grounds

Planting and Dealing with Deer on the Grounds

One of the main challenges the Weeders face is staying two steps ahead of the animals. They plant flowers in parts of the garden the deer seem to avoid, but they still face a deer problem. According to Waite, they have to contend with a number of deer and have to devise ways to plant flowers that won’t attract them.

Certification as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Foundation

The churchyard has also been certified by the National Wildlife Foundation as a wildlife habitat. “You can’t be afraid of bees,” Waite said as she explains the importance of maintaining an environment that supports wildlife. As a certified wildlife habitat, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church contributes to preserving the ecosystem for future generations.

Fundraising for the Church Grounds

Plant Sale and Christmas Fundraiser

The group holds two fundraisers every year to supplement the parish budget. They have a plant sale around Mother’s Day, where volunteers donate plants from their gardens and they sell them. They also sell plants at Christmas to raise money to buy whatever is needed for the garden. These two fundraisers bring in $1, 200 to $1, 500, which goes towards maintaining the church grounds.

Community Support and Appreciation towards the Church Grounds

The Weeders’ hard work has not gone unnoticed. People who visit St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Sunday mornings often remark on how beautiful the surroundings are. “It’s a little oasis in town, and a lot of people know that it’s here and feel welcome here,” said volunteer Lynda Dunham. The group’s efforts have created an inviting and welcoming space for the community, providing what Mulveny called “some kind of visual or spiritual nourishment.”

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