Robert Jenson & Arlene Brandt-Jenson

Published 2014

How does your garden grow? As a master gardener, Arlene Brandt-Jenson takes that question seriously. While it may not be with silver bells and cockleshells as the nursery rhyme suggests, she and her husband, Robert, are busy sprucing up the yard and planting numerous flowers at their home as is the case every spring.

However, they have also planted another seed – that of a fund that will continue to grow and serve the Watertown area. Their donor-advised fund at the Watertown Area Community Foundation will focus on environmental and social concerns as well as support cultural, educational, and other charitable purposes.

“We like Watertown for its volunteer spirit,” the couple told the Foundation. “It has a small-town feel with big-town opportunities.” The couple has lived in Watertown since the early ‘90s and Arlene had been with Natural Resources Conservation Service for 28 years before retiring in 2011. Robert is the lab supervisor at Prairie Lakes Healthcare System. Together, they have joined that “volunteer spirit.” Arlene has been instrumental in the success of Watertown’s “cleaner and greener” efforts brought about by H2O-20 and Robert has helped each step of the way. They also serve at their church (Arlene as choir director, Bob as a choir member, and both through other committees.) Music is a big part of their lives; they enjoy the concerts brought by the Watertown Concert Association and the SD Symphony and want to ensure that these great things and more continue to happen in Watertown.

Their daughter, Kristin, has also followed in those footsteps and is a missionary associate at Dayton, OH.

“We’ve been blessed throughout our lives with good jobs,” Arlene said. “We had the funds and wanted to leave a legacy as well as be good stewards and set an example. We know the Foundation is doing good things.”

“There’s no reason not to give back to the community,” Robert added. “The fund is self-sustaining so it will continue to do good things in the community.”

While their yard is starting to bloom, the couple will also be looking at possibilities for the Robert Jenson and Arlene Brandt-Jenson Fund’s first grants.

The couple hopes others also plant philanthropic seeds at the Foundation.

As for other seeds, Arlene will be taking the position of president of the SD Master Gardeners Association later this year.  Just like their fund, the couple puts thought into what gets planted and what the outcome will be. “It’s good to also think about the birds, insects, and pollinators. Single blossoms are best, as in the native purple coneflower,” Arlene explained. “The double blossoms and pom-poms look pretty but don’t serve other purposes. The single blossoms provide a landing pad for bees and butterflies. Catmint has a pretty purplish bloom that rabbits don’t eat. Joe Pye is wonderful to attract monarchs.”

“A lot of our backyard is a flowerbed,” Robert smiled. “That means I don’t have much to mow.”

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