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Cultivating Beauty and Connections: Employee Spotlight on Mary Kemmer

In the heart of Columbine Health, amidst the vibrant flowers and meticulously maintained gardens, you'll find Mary Kemmer, a dedicated landscape manager with a passion for horticulture and a heart full of love for the community. Over the past 24 years, Mary has played a crucial role in transforming the landscapes of Columbine’s facilities into serene, beautiful spaces that bring joy and comfort to residents and staff alike.

From Secretarial Work to Horticulture Expert

Mary's journey to Columbine Health was not straightforward. Initially working in secretarial roles, Mary made a life-changing decision in her late 30s to pursue higher education. She earned her Associate Degree in Science, and in 2000, graduated from Colorado State University with a Bachelor's degree in science, with a focus on horticulture. This shift marked the beginning of a new chapter in her life, blending her academic knowledge with her newfound passion for gardening.

Learning Through Experience at Columbine

Although Mary entered Columbine with a solid academic background, her true education began on the job. She fondly recalls those early years as a time of trial by fire, where hands-on experience and the challenges of maintaining the gardens of seven facilities provided invaluable lessons. Her commitment and adaptability allowed her to grow alongside Columbine, which has since expanded significantly.

A Day in the Life of a Landscape Manager

Mary's role as Landscape Manager is dynamic and multifaceted. During the summer, her days are filled with planting flowers, trimming shrubs, weeding, watering, removing dead trees and shrubs, and mowing the Loveland campus. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are dedicated to watering the potted flowers and flagpole beds at each facility, a task Mary prioritizes to ensure they remain vibrant and healthy.

As the seasons change, so do Mary’s responsibilities. In the fall, her team cleans and preps the gardens for winter, focusing on leaf cleanup and garden maintenance. Winter brings the challenge of snow removal, where Mary joins forces with the construction team to plow parking lots and sidewalks. It's also a time for planning the next summer’s flower displays and decorating the management office for Christmas. Early spring involves trimming and preparing the shrubs, even as snow sometimes still blankets the ground.

Mary’s dedication to her work is evident in every aspect of her role, from the meticulous care of the gardens to the creative planning for the upcoming seasons.

A Team Effort

Mary is quick to praise her team, which includes Sonja Meyer and Nick Martin. Sonja, with her artistic eye, brings a unique perspective to the team, while Nick's engineering skills have been crucial in solving numerous challenges. Together, they create and maintain the beautiful landscapes that are a hallmark of Columbine Health. The seasonal staff, who join the team each summer, bring fresh energy and a willingness to learn, making every year a new adventure.

The Joy of Connecting with Residents

For Mary, the residents at Columbine Health are the highlight of her job. “One of my favorite things is seeing residents come out and watch us while we are working,” she says. “Many grew up on farms or had their own gardens and love to see us ‘beautify’ their surroundings. I often get to chat with them about their gardening experiences, which brings back fond memories for them.”

The connections Mary has built with the residents over the years are a testament to the therapeutic power of gardening. The vibrant colors and textures of the gardens offer a soothing effect, providing a respite from the stresses of daily life and fostering a sense of community and joy.

A Commitment to Sustainability

Beyond the aesthetic beauty, Mary and her team are committed to sustainability. They have embarked on a project to reduce water usage by transforming grassy parkways into areas filled with native and low-water-use plants. This initiative, supported by the City of Fort Collins and the Xeriscape Incentive Program, aims to not only beautify the community but also contribute to the city's natural wildlife corridor. It's an exciting project that reflects Columbine Health's dedication to environmental stewardship and community well-being.

A Passionate Gardener and Loving Grandmother

Outside of her work, Mary loves to garden, read, and engage in crafts. She also cherishes spending time with her family, including her four grandchildren, who range in age from 3 to 16. Her love for gardening is more than just a job; it's a lifelong passion that she shares with those around her, enriching the lives of everyone at Columbine Health.

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