Sarah Schoeffler – Master Gardener/Environmentalist Exemplifies the Meaning of Being a Good Steward

Right in time for Easter, Discover Lafayette is proud to share our conversation with Sarah Schoeffler, a woman of faith who selflessly shares her resources and talents with others. She exemplifies the meaning of “good steward” and follows a path of service that is inspirational.

Sarah is well-known for her work in beautifying Lafayette and for her delightful gardens at the home she shares with her husband, Harold Schoeffler, which they graciously open up for community fundraisers and various charitable causes. Through the years, the Schoefflers have purchased additional property contiguous to their home which is located immediately before you enter the gates of Oakbourne Country Club; it now encompasses approximately six acres of lush native plantings and beautiful flowers. Sarah describes her newest project, three years in the making, as her “meadow,” which is now home to native Louisiana trees coming into their own.

First and foremost, mark your calendar for April 10, 2021, 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. for a beautiful Garden Stroll through the grounds of Sarah and Harold Schoeffler, 3502 E. Simcoe, Lafayette LA 70501, which you can attend for $10.00. The event is hosted to benefit Family Promise of Acadiana, an organization near and dear to Sarah’s heart that helps families experiencing homelessness achieve sustainable independence. For more information on the event, visit their facebook site.

On April 10, enjoy a relaxing stroll through the natural riverside garden of Sarah and Harold Schoeffler at 3502 E. Simcoe Street in Lafayette. Admission is $10 at the garden gate and proceeds benefit Family Promise of Acadiana.

Family Promise of Acadiana is the only program in the area that offers shelter to entire families, including teen boys and single dads. The family unit must include children in order to be eligible for entry into their program. There are several host and support churches in the Family Promise of Acadiana network, including Sarah’s church, First United Methodist Church in downtown Lafayette.

One of the best things about Family Promise is the sheer number of volunteers the families being served will meet while they are being assisted. Sarah shared that many people being helped end up finding opportunities to get back on their feet through the kindness of caring volunteers they meet through the various churches that provide support.

“The individuals served by Family Promise meet all kinds of caring volunteers from local churches and they can network. Somewhere along the road a volunteer might say, ‘Hey, I’ve got the most opportune thing for you. It just works. It’s a nice win-win for everyone.”

Sarah has traditionally hosted a Southern Garden Festival to benefit Family Promise each April, but the COVID shutdown prevented that from happening in 2020. She looks forward to hosting the perennially favorite event this October. The garden tour has evolved over the years into a weekend gala, featuring Friday Night Dining and Dancing under the stars with a silent auction and servings of catfish personally caught by Harold Schoeffler and fried up by members of First United Methodist Church. Then, Saturday is a full day of festival activities including a tea party with refreshments served on Sarah’s mother’s teacups, dancing fairies, musicians who donate their talents, vendors, beekeepers, pigeon flyers, and last but not least, a Maypole featuring delightful young dancers led by their very talented dance instructor, Cissy Whipp. It would be hard to find a more family-friendly event.

Sarah and Harold Schoeffler at the 2014 Southern Garden Tour held at their home to benefit Family Promise of Acadiana. The event is a fun annual affair that has something for everyone to enjoy and you can learn more about gardening and the environment while you help raise funds for a great cause. Photo by Kris Wartelle.

Sarah credits her husband, Harold, with her interest in the environment. The two met in the late 1960s when Harold came to sell a Cadillac to her mother. “He was the Cadillac guy.” Harold’s dad had started the dealership at the end of the 1930s and at that time it was Francez Schoeffler Cadillac. The Schoeffler family bought it out and brothers Harold and Charles “Fritz” Schoeffler ran the dealership until they closed it in 2009. At the time of our interview in late March 2021, the Schoeffler family had just finalized the sale of the dealership property on Surrey Street to Iberia Comprehensive Community Health Center.

Harold Schoeffler has played a great role in his family’s appreciation of being good stewards of our environment.

Sarah still drives an old Caddy…”from 1973, a big boat, the last of the Cadillac Convertibles.”

Sarah reminisced about her first date with Harold when asked about her interest in protecting our environment. “On our first date, Harold introduced me to a sunrise! I had no idea what that big orange thing sitting on the water was! Harold has been a good teacher to me and our children.”

“On our first date, Harold introduced me to a sunrise! He is a good teacher. I had no idea what that big orange thing sitting on the water was. We’ve now worked together to address issues with flooding, rivers, trees, anything that is important to the environment.”

Most of us don’t realize how much we can affect the quality of the Vermilion River, both for the good and the bad. “For those of us living on the river, we need to be planting things along the river that absorb things before they go down and pollute the river, to block things from getting into the river.

Sarah shared her early days in environmentalism that was a result of her involvement in the Methodist church. “That’s where my coastal information came from, First United Methodist Church. Back in the 1980s, someone called me to get First UMC involved in coastal restoration efforts. I went down to Houma, learned what was going on, came back, got with the Catholic Conference, got LSU to send someone down and we developed the 1st Coastal Interfaith Conference involving a coalition of Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and others. We hosted the first interfaith meeting at our church.” She promoted the event up and down the coastal regions of Louisiana and over 200 people attended to learn more about the problems of coastal erosion, which Louisiana still suffers from. And sadly, Louisiana’s coat still faces the same problems today.

Sarah Schoeffler recently received her certification in Native Landscaping and encourages South Louisiana residents to choose native plants for their yards in order to “feed the population that lives with us so that they don’t disappear. If we default to exotic plants that are beautiful but not indigenous to our region we will lose local insects and birds.

“Live Oaks, including all deciduous oak trees, host over 250 types of insects. To fledge out one nest of chickadees, it takes 6,000 to 8000 caterpillars to feed them. You wonder how any butterflies are left. But this is why it’s important to plant native plantings such as oak trees.”

In closing, we want to acknowledge all the work Sarah has done and still does on behalf of our community. She was the recipient of the Founders Award by the Lafayette Commission on the Needs of Women in 2014.

Sarah Schoeffler served as the director of the United Methodist LA Conference Disaster Response after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and again after Hurricane Lili in 2002.

She has also served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity, Faith In Action, Evangeline Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Lafayette Natural History Museum, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Community Advisory Board of Teach For America,  Dulac United Methodist Community Center,

Sarah chairs TreesAcadiana, serves on The Salvation Army Advisory and Auxiliary Boards, Family Promise of Acadiana Board, the Lafayette Garden Club and Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Cleanest City Committee.

Happy Easter to all and may the life of Sarah Schoeffler serve as inspiration to look at the difference we can each make in our world.