(DeAnna’s truck – always there, at 6:30am!)
In a few weeks we’ll be closing the stores early on a Saturday to have a pool party at our home to celebrate our Gill’s nursery & landscape staff. We recognize those who have been with Gill’s 1 year, 5 years, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years. This year we’re celebrating DeAnna’s, our Alameda store manager, 30th year with Gill’s!
DeAnna Baumgartner is a local girl, graduating from Flour Bluff High School. Upon graduation, she played basketball for McLennon Community College and Baylor University, qualifying for the 1980 Summer Olympic Team. She joined us in 1984, and became a Texas Certified Nursery Professional in 1986.
In the fall of 1986, James started thinking we needed a small garden center in central Corpus Christi for the spring season since our Airline location was so far from town. I was pregnant with our second son, Trevor, and honestly wasn’t too keen on the idea. James convinced me it was just for five months, February through June, and then we would go back to a single store operation. DeAnna was our first choice to manage our little temporary store. She accepted, and we all know the rest of the story; she’s been the number one lady in charge of Gill’s Alameda for 28 years!
DeAnna gets to her store around 6:30 in the morning, many times has swept the nursery, done some spot watering and maybe even unloaded a truck or two before the doors open at 8 a.m. DeAnna is a hands-on manager. She works alongside anyone and everyone who needs a helping hand. She hires, she trains, she motivates, she brings treats and sometimes she’s been known to do a little counseling, to help staff through various life challenges. DeAnna is just as close to many of her customers as she is to her staff. She calls David Dunn her week-end boyfriend, I think because he’s there every Saturday. Billy Johnson used to bring her donuts EVERY Saturday morning. I’ve heard of customers calling ahead, placing their order, and DeAnna running to their car with their garden supplies.
DeAnna took it upon herself many years ago to learn not only everything she could about plants that do well in our area, but also how to take care of them. She studied how to enrich the soil, which fertilizers plants responded best to, what bugs get on them and what insecticides could be used on them with the least toxicity, everything to help her customers be successful with gardening. When DeAnna attended national trade shows, she was the first to ask if a label could be changed to better describe its benefits. She shared what her customers needed with the manufacturers and they listened. A year or two later, what she asked for would be on our shelves. Because DeAnna stays current to the challenges we are faced with in our gardens, our local extension agents call on her for advice and information.
As part of her volunteer Master Gardener role, in 2006 DeAnna became the Nueces County “Learning To Grow” coordinator, building vegetable gardens in elementary schools from Agua Dulce to Port Aransas. She has planned and assisted with the installation of over 300 vegetable gardens to date, including every CCISD elementary, middle and high school, private schools, the Mother Theresa Shelter, La Mirada Housing Project and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi. Her goal is to open young peoples’ eyes to the wonder of gardening and the importance of healthy eating. She continues to build gardens each new season, adding to her list private schools, church schools and non-profits. In the fall and spring of each year, seed and seedlings are delivered to our Alameda store. From there, she along with other Master Gardeners organize and pack product to go to each of the participating gardens. In 2013, DeAnna was awarded 2nd place State of Texas “Master Gardener Of The Year” for her contributions to the “Learn To Grow” program in our area.
In 2010 DeAnna helped to resurrect the Ray High School Greenhouse for the science classes and the botany club, which has become an award winning project. The Master Gardener program this year awarded their first scholarship to a Ray High School student for their hard work and dedication to horticulture.
On her days off, when not working with the Master Gardeners, she enjoys vegetable and container gardening in her own back yard (she does know a great place to get plants!) as well as spending time with her husband, Clint Knight, and very best friend, Carol Krank, of the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. The girls celebrate each week with 3 M’s, Mexican food, margaritas and movies.
James and I admire DeAnna for her leadership and product knowledge. We’re thankful for her commitment to learning and sharing her garden knowledge, for providing a safe and good place for our community to work and shop and we’re thankful for her commitment to quality. She cares about her customers and their gardening success. Thank you DeAnna!