Board of Trustees

Executive Director

Stephanie Van Parys: Executive Director (2005-present)

Stephanie Van Parys’s March 2005 succession into the role of executive director of the Oakhurst Garden was part serendipity and part good planning. Sally Wylde, the Garden’s “founding mother” and Stephanie’s predecessor in the position, recruited Stephanie to the Wylde Center board in 2003.  Stephanie is a trained horticulturist who has served on the boards of organizations like Sevananda Natural Foods Cooperative and Georgia Organics.” With her volunteering, coupled with a B.S. in horticulture from the University of Georgia (1997) and four years spent on the Atlanta Botanical Gardens staff, she knew what the Wylde Center needed. As a board member, she created a slate of community classes that have introduced droves of newcomers to the Oakhurst Garden. She also organized Earth Day and a program of volunteer workdays. As the Executive Director, Stephanie has matched the growth of the organization to the goals set forward in the strategic plan.  Examples include growing the number of gardens managed from 1-4 greenspaces, incorporating the Decatur Farm to School initiative into the organization, serving as a 3rd party for an employee garden at the Centers for Disease Control facility, and expanding garden based education into schools in both Decatur and Atlanta.

Stephanie writes regularly for local publications on gardening in Georgia and has taught classes at the Atlanta Botanical Garden for over 15 years. Creating places where children can explore nature as well as learn how to keep both their bodies and the earth healthy is very important. It is what drives her work at the Wylde Center. Stephanie was honored as a Decatur Hometown Hero in 2012.

Stephanie, her husband, Rob, and their three children have lived in Decatur since 1997.  They tend to their own urban farm paradise which includes a large vegetable garden, chickens, and their herding dog.

Sally Wylde: Co-Founder and Executive Director Emerita (1997-2005)

An artist and teacher for thirty years, Sally Wylde has a master of fine arts in painting from Tufts University and a master of theological studies from Candler School of Theology of Emory University. Moving from rural Massachusetts to the densely populated city of Decatur to attend school in 1993, she wondered about the effects of urbanization and separation from nature on children and residents.  When a group of local children vandalized a neighbor’s garden in 1996, Sally and her neighbor, Louise Jackson, invited the children to become caretakers of the garden.  They restored Jackson’s garden and moved on to create a garden in the median strip of the street in front of Jackson’s house.  The children took tremendous pride in their work, which was honored at a ceremony.  Decatur’s then-Mayor, Elizabeth Wilson, presented each child with a certificate of appreciation.

Sally, who also served on the Decatur Greenspace Commission and is a member of the Decatur Rotary Club, retired as the Garden’s executive director in 2005.  She was honored in 1998 as a Decatur Hometown Hero.

Sally Wylde passed away in August 2010, but until her death stayed involved in the organization.

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