Jean Nelson knew firsthand just what it means to garden from the heart. The slogan, often seen on garden paving stones and banners, was something her friends and family say she elevated to an art form, with all of her volunteerism on behalf of the CHI St. Alexius Williston’s Hospital Auxiliary.
Annually, Williston residents could always count on a fun, summer garden party that served as a vehicle to raise funds for an important project to help CHI St. Alexius Williston. The event is now in its 28th year, and has bought all kinds of medical equipment down through the years to help advance health care in the community.
This year, the project was funds for much-needed ICU bed mattresses. Family, friends, coworkers and co-volunteers packed the house for Jean’s Garden Party, and seeing how many people were there brought a smile to nearly everyone’s face.
“She was the heart of the Auxiliary,” Marilyn McGinley told the Williston Herald. “She was so generous with her time, her talent, and her resources all the way through. There just wasn’t a nicer person.”
Nelson could often be seen driving up and down alleyways in Williston, McGinley said, looking for homes that could be on the garden tours that used to follow the event.
This year, organizers changed it up a little and brought the tour to the event, setting up displays outside in the courtyard of the First Lutheran Church, where the event is always held. The program included a demonstration from Handy Andy’s, as well as musical entertainment. There was also a continental-style breakfast.
“She loved doing this,” her daughter Alissa Theissen told the Williston Herald. “This was very important to her. She would have loved the fundraiser this year for the ICU beds. She would have been all over that.”
Nelson was involved in the garden party from the beginning, Thiessen added.
Her niece, Alexa Engelbrecht was happy to see so many people at the event, enjoying it.
“It’s really nice after she’s gone to see all the people here, and to see that her legacy is still going.”
“She loved looking at the gardens,” Theissen added. “She loved her flowers, she loved gardening. She had lots of flowers in town and at the farm.”
With the number of people attending, the event was able to raise more than $4,000, McGinley told the Williston Herald, which exceeded the group’s expectations for the event.
Story and photos by Renée Jean - Williston Herald