Jeannette WalksTake a ride along Keuterville Road between Cottonwood and the Monastery of St. Gertrude and you are likely to see Jeannette Kelley enjoying her walk between town and her volunteer work at the monastery.

In addition, she uses her walks to collect trash and recyclables that people throw out on the side of the road. Not only do her endeavors create a cleaner community, it deepens the sense of hospitality for the thousands of people who drive through Cottonwood each year to visit the Monastery for retreats, concerts, museum lectures, and other events.

Jeannette carries two bags for collecting: one for trash and one for recyclables. “I get a lot out of the quiet and exercise of walking,” says Jeannette, who is a Benedictine oblate (lay member) of the Monastery of St. Gertrude. She is also co-director of the oblate program. Her cleanups are inspired by Benedictine values. “I am encouraged by my responsibility to clean up the roadside — to help take care of the earth and do what I can where I am, even if it’s just a little thing.”

Jeannette and her husband Fred have been oblates since 1988. They retired to Cottonwood in 2006 so they could be closer to the Monastery and regularly volunteer there. “We really love this community,” she says, “especially the community spirit.”

She says the accumulation of garbage and recyclables on the roadside is fairly steady. Recently she took a 3-week break from walking to recover from a cold. When she returned to her walk, she was dismayed at all that had been thrown out along the roadside.

But mostly she notices the beauty of the scenery and the wildlife including hawks, eagles, and geese flying overhead. “I also enjoy people honking and waving at me,” she smiles.