Working to protect the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities area

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Elaine Jervis

Featured volunteer — January 2007

 FMR volunteer Elaine Jervis.]

The diminutive dynamo commanded “Make me look tall!”

Photo by Tim Boyle

Elaine Jervis’s reaction as she was told I would be her photographer and profile-writer triggered fear’s tenacious ice-climb up my socks: she turned, focused her laser-sighted eyes on me and, with a Clint Eastwood-like inflection, she hissed, “Make me look tall.” Around us, ebullient FMR Gorge Stewards potluck-dinner patrons swirled and laughed.

“Heh. O-kkkay,” I squeaked.

On a Saturday, I nervously met Elaine at the river gorge. In minutes, her easy manner and humble nature put all my fears to rest.

Elaine left her cozy Philadelphia home and blew into Minneapolis with the Halloween blizzard of 1991. Assuming this was normal October weather, she decided she would stay.

Becoming involved with FMR in 1999 in response to a Highland Villager call-out for trash-pickup volunteers, Elaine jumped in with both feet, and a bag in one hand. Since then, she has volunteered at over 40 events.

When asked about some of her first projects with FMR, Elaine pointed to a patch of prairie plants about 10 feet away and said, “Actually, some of those over there.” A resident of the Howe/Longfellow neighborhood in Minneapolis, Elaine has participated in the majority of the Gorge Stewards Oak Savanna Workdays, the effort to restore an oak savanna (located near Giggly Hills picnic area at East 36th Street & West River Parkway) from its buckthorn-grove status to planted native species.

 FMR volunteer Elaine Jervis.]

Elaine Jervis enjoys the fruits (err... prairie plants) of her labor in her local Oak Savanna-in-progress.

Photo by Tim Boyle

As if removing buckthorn, collecting seed and cutting sumac haven’t been enough, since leaving the Target marketing department in fall 2006, Elaine has been a Tuesday Night regular at FMR. She helps with everything from data entry to organizing the dank and dusty basement storage space.

Elaine is always willing to pitch in as long as the work ultimately benefits the river. “I think I appreciate the Mississippi in a different way from not growing up here,” she said. “It’s amazing — so much history. It’s where you go, where you take friends, where you walk.”

As an avid reader, Elaine also appreciates the romance of the Mighty Mississippi. “It’s so mythical. It’s in so many books,” she says. Elaine often recharges through reading and discussing fiction with her “Book & Broth” club. She also enjoys gardening, especially at the community gardens in her neighborhood.

Through practicing the Zen principles of No TV and No More Working for Big Business, Elaine has kept her thoughts relatively pure and is practicing the visualization techniques necessary to bring her closer to her ideal job: being paid to work for a nonprofit, preferably a river-related one.

Tim Boyle is a freelance writer and photographer and fellow FMR volunteer, and can be reached via e-mail. Read more…