Kim White remembers childhood summers alongside her grandmother in the garden, watching monarch butterflies flit about the milkweed, looking for tadpoles and rescuing toads from window wells.
So it’s no surprise that she continues to surround herself with nature as an adult. White, of Lombard, is the new steward for Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn. She helps coordinate and oversee volunteer restoration workdays and carry out restoration goals for ecologically valuable areas at Churchill Woods.
“I’ve always had the nature bug as far back as I can remember,” said White, of Lombard. “I was a Campfire Girl from first grade through high school and I was a camp counselor. Our camp had many hiking trail through thick woods and prairie hilltops.”
White had been a co-steward at Churchill Woods since February 2016 and became the steward in December 2018.
“I had been driving past Churchill Woods for years,” White said. “I heard about a group that was going to start clearing buckthorn and honeysuckle from Churchill Woods, which is five minutes from my home.”
White (kneeling in middle) at a Volunteer Restoration Workday at Churchill Woods in 2017.
She’s currently working to clear invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle from an area of Churchill Woods on the south side of St. Charles Road just west of the middle parking lot.
“I strongly believe in service. If you believe in something, it should show in your actions. I also think we should take care of what is in our own backyard, so to speak,” White said. “I love the physical activity and comradeship of working in the woods, and returning it to a healthy ecosystem.
“I also like to see the progress of work. Clearing out a thick grouping of buckthorn and seeing sunlight touch a space on the ground for the first time in years, you wonder what will be awakened,” White said.
White (far right) with a church group during a 2016 workday at Churchill Woods.
A self-described renaissance woman, White is the education coordinator for the Lombard Historical Society and worked at Brookfield Zoo for 20 years (10 years as a docent and 10 years as an instructor in the education department). She is married, has two grown children and five grandchildren. She’s an avid gardener, does a fair amount of quilting, and has about 30 pets, mostly reptiles and amphibians.
“I’m very interested in biomimicry and can’t help but wonder if there’s something at my feet that could be the answer to one of our problems,” she said.
White loves seeing the seasons change in nature. “I love seeing the sporangium on moss in the springtime, as well as the first appearance of bloodroot, Virginia bluebells, trillium, trout lily and wild geraniums,” she said.
“Connecting with nature is my favorite thing about being in a forest preserve,” she said. “It grounds me and gives me energy. It puts a song in my heart.”
Her advice to others: “Just go and find what inspires you.”
White talks to a group at a 2016 workday at Churchill Woods.
White (third from left) and a group at a 2016 workday at Churchill Woods.