Fall 2016

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One of the great pleasures of serving on the board of Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens is to walk through the Gardens and realize just how analogous gardening is to shaping an organization. Like any successful garden, it takes careful thought, cultivating, planning, and tending to maintain the growth of the organization.

Of those tasks, planning for the future is often the most difficult. It is, by necessity, based on a certain amount of assumption and contains some degree of ambiguity. Successful planning must accommodate the need to adapt as circumstances change and details unfold over time.

Inspired by the spirit of Volney Rogers and Elizabeth Fellows, individuals decades apart who understood that the job of planning for a better tomorrow is never done. The board of Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens continues this role of making plans to grow and extend our network of support built for the Gardens over our 27-year history. We’ve served as a fundraising catalyst for this Mill Creek MetroParks site, including the funding of the 2001 $6 million D.D. and Velma Davis Education & Visitor Center; a $1.5 million building endowment; the 2010 $510,000 fountain and Seasonal Celebration Plaza renovation; $310,000 in 2012 for improvements to the Ohio Woodland Gardens; as well as other significant contributions totaling several million dollars over the years.

Now, Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens reaffirms its commitment to the same level of support and quality that Fellows Riverside Gardens has come to represent. The common vision shared by Volney Rogers, Elizabeth Fellows, and the Friends Board through all of these efforts over the past 125 years is one of fierce dedication – particularly when challenges arise – to a place which we know matters. That vision and dedication continues now through scores of volunteers, members, supporters, and advocates. We join hands with our partners and remind ourselves that we conduct our important work not for ourselves, but for the generations after us who will one day enjoy the shade of the trees that we plant today.

We noticed at our Annual Meeting in April that a conversation is emerging about an opportunity to closely collaborate with the existing Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation. Friends approaches this conversation with our 27-year mission as our central focus and has every intention of preserving that mission. As the details begin to unfold, rest assured that our desire is to explore creative ways which may lead to an extension of the success seen at the Gardens to the entire MetroParks. It’s vital to note that the Foundation has been a good partner and works to compliment the mission of Friends and is itself a separate entity from the MetroParks.

Success requires a collaborative spirit to achieve our great collective goals as a community. If we all agree that the future of Fellows Riverside Gardens and Mill Creek MetroParks is important to the culture, history, and livability of our Valley, then we must collectively be willing to adapt to changes, make plans for the future, and cultivate a system that will ensure private support and advocacy so that the Park may continue to be a central focus of life of the Mahoning Valley.

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