Who We Are

Co-President | Cindy Lenger

Hi, my name is Cindy Lenger.  I am a life-long gardener.  My Great Grandma’s entire backyard was a flower/ vegetable garden.  My Grandfather worked on a peony farm near Colchester, Illinois in the 1920s.  I have some of these 100-year plants in my garden today.  My current passion is native pollinators.  I worked with Paul Crosser to learn germination techniques and have been actively involved with the Purple Violet. I am currently trying to plant a steep hillside with pollinators, which is challenging my old knees.  I am a “learning every day” Master Gardener and support several University of Illinois Extension projects.  In order to support my plant habit, right out of college, I worked 10 years at the Farmall plant building red tractors.  I retired from Joint Munitions Command in 2019 as the Munitions Logistics Division Chief.  My crew support the Joint Services moving ammunition all over the world.  I loved my job and developed some pretty good organizational skills that I hope to use to further the Wild Ones organization and continue the fast paced forward progress.

Co-President | Robbie Palm

Back in 2000, my life changed. I had just finished a master’s degree in Education and moved to Rock Island with a health crisis. Through my research, writing a blog, and creating an Immunity Garden, I developed a better appreciation of how the relationship between our health and nature is essential. It is about balance. We, humans, need to work with nature, not against her, and we need to change. Over the past 23 years, I have met many people growing food and wildlife in their neighborhoods. I am excited to work with other Wild One Members as we branch out and grow together to build an organization that educates others about creating habitat for ourselves and nature, changing the landscapes one yard at a time!

Vice President | Christine Deignan

Christine grew up on 19 acres of “unfarmable land” (because of 5 natural springs that ran year round and the islands of land those waterways created) south of Mt. Vernon, Iowa. Christine became a physician but never lost her love of flowers and nature. After retirement on January 1, 2023, she is returning to her roots. Her Davenport yard is a National Wiild life habitat and a Monarch waystation. She recently purchased 4 acres eroded farm land in Cedar Rapids and has a goal of restoring it with native plantings.

Co-Treasurer | Rob Liva

Rob Liva is a ravine enthusiast living in Rock Island. He fondly recalls learning the names of native plants as a teenager and fell in love with discovering their habitats and associations. Rob is a professional consultant in ecological land management and uses prescribed fire and more to meet biodiversity goals. You can find him loitering at the Quad Cities Farmers Market (Rock Island) on any given Saturday morning.

Co-Treasurer | Tracey Zahn

My name is Tracey Zahn.  My husband, Neal, and I grew up in Chicago. My background is in healthcare. I am a retired Nuclear Medicine Technologist.  I garden as a hobby and enjoy growing both flowers and vegetables. My interest in native plants started at Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary in Schaumburg, IL. As a volunteer, I was able to participate in their prairie restoration. I was hooked after seeing all the diverse wildlife that visited the prairie. The time spent on the prairie inspired us to move away from the Chicago area and buy our little place in the country.

Co-Secretary | Carolina Baptist-Bowers

My name is Carolina, and my native habitat restoration journey began when I started raising Monarch Butterflies with my children. Through my own research into their host plants, I quickly became fascinated by every pollinator and their role in the same ecosystem. I began to plant natives in my own yard, and on my parents property in Davenport, Iowa. After seeing the diversity of species that began to show up in only a few years of restoration, I knew I was in it for life. I took the Master Conservationist program through Iowa State University outreach in 2023 and have been a steward for native habitats ever since.

Co-Secretary | Jeanna Ohda

I am Jeanna Ohda and I have lived and worked in the Bureau and Lee County Illinois area all my life.  My love for gardening comes from my parents.  My dad was a farmer and my mom loved flower gardening, herbs and roadside “weeds”.  I recently retired from the Postal Service and I am slowly turning my yard and former horse pastures into native plant gardens

Membership Chair | Paul Crosser

Paul is a retired Environmental Engineer who worked for Bandag and the succession company Bridgestone Bandag in Muscatine, Iowa.  Previous positions in environmental management include HON INDUSTRIES (HNI) and Commonwealth Edison (Exelon). Native plant and habitat experience includes prairie projects in Muscatine on the Bridgestone properties, plant propagation in the Muscatine Community College greenhouse as a co-founder of the Muscatine Pollinator Project, and native plant projects at several churches. Established native plant propagation at the Purple Violet Shop along with Cindy Lenger.

Web Chair | Emma Harmon

Hello! I am a former special education teacher and graduate of Black Hawk College’s Visual Communication program. I love both teaching and graphic design, and most recently- native plants! I began gardening in 2020 with sunflowers and tomatoes, which led to me quickly learning about cut flowers for bouquets, native plants, insects & birds. Once I read Doug Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home, I was hooked! I’ve been smothering grass and adding gardens in our 1/3 acre suburban yard ever since. I’m still very much a novice, but an enthusiastic one.