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Wylde Center executive director to step down at the end of the year

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Wylde Center executive director to step down at the end of the year

Stephanie Van Parys will step down as the executive director of the Wylde Center on Dec. 31, 2023. Photo courtesy of Mary Claire Photo.

Decatur, GA — Wylde Center Executive Director Stephanie Van Parys will step down from the role effective Dec. 31, according to a post on the Wylde Center’s Facebook page.

Van Parys has served as the executive director since 2005. She began working with the center in 2004 serving one year on the board of directors. The Wylde Center Board of Directors selected Van Parys to lead the organization when Founder Sally Wylde retired at the time, according to a press release.

Here is Van Parys’ full statement from the Facebook post:

Dear Wylde Center Friends,

Serving as the Wylde Center’s Executive Director since 2005 has been an absolute joy, a wonderful challenge and an honor. 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.

Now, excited about the Wylde Center’s future and my own, I will step down from this role on December 31, 2023. Wylde Center’s Board of Directors will conduct an executive director search this autumn.

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 1.5 staff in Decatur to 25 staff working with people of all ages in schools, community spaces, and five greenspaces across metro Atlanta. I could not be more proud of the work that we have accomplished together with you.

Thank you for collaborating with this magnificent organization, Wylde Center, that is so dear to my heart. Along with you, I look forward to discovering its future.


Stephanie Van Parys, Wylde Center Executive Director

The new executive director will lead the strategic vision and day-to-day operations of the organization, and they will start in the new year. The Wylde Center Board of Directors has engaged Purpose Possible to lead the search. The Wylde Center launched a search for its executive director at the beginning of September, the press release states.

“Stephanie’s accomplishments as the leader of Wylde Center are too numerous to count. She has worked tirelessly during these eighteen years, reflecting her unrelenting commitment to our mission, connecting people with nature,” said Jill Wasserman, president of the board of directors. “The impact Stephanie has made on the community will be felt for generations to come. The board looks forward to sustaining the organization’s momentum alongside new leadership in 2024.”

Under Van Parys’ leadership, the Wylde Center grew from a single-site community garden to operating five greenspaces in four Decatur and Atlanta neighborhoods. The on-site programs at the gardens provide environmental education and community events to over 25,000 students and adults annually.

In 2022, 70% of environmental education programming was offered for free, including in public schools and the Decatur Housing Authority. 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.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wylde Center expanded its online learning offerings, created a free children’s activity book, and shifted plant sales to an online platform allowing the community to cultivate home gardens.

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