Grounds—Nurturing Nature Nurtures Our Souls

First impressions can sometimes make or break deals, partnerships, and/or relationships.

Frances Crockett, CV Resident and Grounds Committee Chair, recently shared about an employee who came to CV for an interview and said the first thing she noticed when coming to campus was the beautiful grounds work. Similarly, potential future residents on the wait list have said roaming around campus makes them want to be at CV because the grounds are so attractive.

I recently read an article from the American Psychological Association ( that said exposure to nature is linked to numerous benefits, some of which include lower stress, better mood, improved attention, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, and boosts in empathy and cooperation.

All of that from standing in some fresh green grass, gazing at vibrant flowers, and breathing in fresh air?! Yes, please! It was even noted that looking at images of nature can be beneficial to one’s well-being.

As we look around Covenant Village during this Spring season, we see beauty blossoming in nature.  This beauty is God’s handiwork indeed, as He is the creator of all created things, but there are other hands that have touched and nurtured the grounds that have grown and been maintained over CV’s campus throughout the years.

Let’s play an analogy game: Michael Jordan is to Basketball as…1) Gutters: House 2) Cheese: Mouse 3) Clock: Time 4) Black: White 5) Chip Ballard: CV Grounds.  If you guessed Chip Ballard: CV Grounds, you got it like a lot of people get it!!

If basketball fans praised Michael Jordan for his brilliance in the sport, they should just hear Covenant Village residents, employees, and visitors rave about the magnificent grounds work that Chip and his team have executed over the years.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Chip Ballard, Grounds Foreman, and Frances Crockett about the efforts that pay off year after year, season after season, as seen on Covenant’s landscape of 50+ acres.

Chip has many fond memories of gardening with his great grandmother as a child. He believes his passion for nature took root in the early years spent on her farm. Chip’s knowledge in botany and landscaping is completely self-taught. You could say he has outperformed himself in his mastery of the outdoors.

When asked what the most rewarding part about his job is, Chip said without question, the freedom and creativity he is allowed to express through his grounds work at CV.  Chip’s passion is to constantly improve the land, creating interest in the fine details. He credits his freedom and gives thanks to Russ Craig, Senior Director of Property Services, and Seth Heustess, Maintenance and Grounds Supervisor. He noted that his bosses want things done well, and done right, and they always have an open mind toward his ideas. I could see that Russ’s and Seth’s trust in Chip make an impact on his love for his job here at CV.  In fact, Chip said, “I would challenge anybody to find a better place than Covenant Village.” (I love that this is a common theme I’m hearing about CV!)

With every wonderful thing comes its challenges as well. We have all heard of one thing we can’t seem to have enough of…TIME! Chip shared that the most challenging part of his job is finding enough time to maintain the grounds, while tackling all the improvements/upgrades he would love to make. This was one of many reasons why Tony Banner, Chip’s new colleague (who came to CV from a golf club), was so welcome!

Frances Crockett and the Grounds Committee, which consists of five residents (including four who are master gardeners and one who is an enthusiast), function as liaisons between the residents and the Grounds Department. Frances said residents are welcome to bring their concerns, suggestions, and requests to the Committee, who will then report to the Grounds Department.

She noted that Chip and Tony are very responsive to any and all concerns and requests. For example, in Spring of 2021, residents requested more “color” throughout campus. Chip responded to this request by bringing in a variety of new flowers which made the place “pop” per Frances. She said Chip goes above and beyond the call of duty to make things look “pretty.” (I love the daintiness of that word—way to go Chip! Men can indeed make things look “pretty”!)

So, how much time should you be spending outside, enjoying the work and creativity of Chip and Tony on CV’s grounds? Studies suggest a minimum of two (2) hours per week to reap the benefits of increased health and well-being that basking in nature offers. I suppose it’s time for Cory and me to start implementing in our own yard what we see at Covenant Village. It’s obvious to me that nature’s beauty can help us all live longer better!

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