The executive director of a nonprofit that operates five different greenspaces and gardens throughout Decatur and Atlanta has announced that she will step down from her role in December.
Stephanie Van Parys, who has served as executive director of the Wylde Center since 2005, said the center’s board of directors will conduct a search for the nonprofit’s next executive director this fall.
In a message to subscribers of the Wylde Center’s newsletter, Van Parys said her job has been “an absolute joy and a wonderful challenge.”
“When I completed my horticulture degree long ago, I never dreamed of playing a role in connecting so many people face-to-face and hands-in-dirt with nature in our urban greenspaces,” she said.
Van Parys also discussed some of the advancements and changes made through the organization as she served as executive director.
“Since my first day on the job at the Oakhurst Community Garden Project, as we were then named, to today, we have grown together from one-and-a-half staff members in Decatur to 25 staff working with people of all ages in schools, community spaces, and five greenspaces across metro Atlanta,” she said. “I could not be more proud of the work that we have accomplished together.”
The Wylde Center’s board of directors also released a statement along with Van Parys’ announcement praising her work and discussing what’s next for the nonprofit.
“Van Parys and her team are responsible for this growth and reach, bringing daily connections to nature and opportunities for learning to metro-Atlanta residents and beyond,” the statement from the board reads, in part. “Van Parys skillfully led the organization to pivot and rapidly adapt during the pandemic years to serve the community while sheltering in place and social distancing were necessary. Wylde Center expanded online learning offerings, created a free activity book for children to engage in the Wylde Center’s greenspaces or to take home and explore nature in their own yards and patios, and shifted plant sales to an online platform enabling community members to cultivate life in their own home gardens while under quarantine. Van Parys’ visionary leadership and passion for the mission have poised Wylde Center to usher in an even more ambitious growth era.”
The board of directors went on to state that once selected, the new executive director will take over day-to-day operations next year.
“The board of directors is committed to finding the right person and has engaged Purpose Possible to lead this search,” the statement continues “This will ensure a smooth and successful transition into the third generation of leadership.”
According to the Wylde Center’s website, the nonprofit now operates Oakhurst Garden, Sugar Creek Garden, Hawk Hollow, Edgewood Community Learning Garden, and Mulberry Fields Garden in Decatur and Atlanta. The on-site programs at the gardens provide environmental education and community events to more than 25,000 students and adults annually.
For more information visit wyldecenter.org.