By Amy Heilman
On July 10th of this year, River City chapter of Wild Ones lost a dear friend and our founding President, Carol Phelps.
Carol traveled extensively across the state during her career as a manager for AT&T. Perhaps this is what sparked her appreciation of our natural resources and the desire to protect them. She volunteered countless hours over a span of 25 years towards that goal. She was well known and respected for her environmental activities with Grand Rapids Audubon Club, Land Conservancy of West Michigan, WMEAC and Kitchell Lindquist Dunes, to name a few.
She was also a member of the Kalamazoo Wild Ones chapter for a number of years. Then in 2007, at age 70, she decided that Grand Rapids needed its own chapter. Carol was a determined woman who got what she wanted and convinced you to want it too! Her drive was the catalyst that started our chapter 15 years ago and it has been growing ever since with no sign of slowing down.
Carol stepped down as president in 2009 and I was voted in as the second president of our River City Chapter—big shoes to fill! She continued her involvement in Wild Ones by serving on the National Wild Ones board of directors for several years.
Another initiative Carol started was a program in Newaygo County where she recruited Michigan Garden Club members as docents who led tours at the US Forest Service’s Wildflower Sanctuary in White Cloud. It is the only national wildflower sanctuary in the U.S. and it has exposed hundreds of school-age students to the beauty and importance of native wildflowers. Her fund-raising efforts produced grants that helped to build the pavilion at this site which is used as a sheltered outdoor classroom. This amazing program, which Carol brought to fruition, served as the model for the popular Discover! event held annually at Kent County Parks.
The energy of this amazing woman was a force of nature. Even after retirement she volunteered tirelessly at free health clinics, women’s abuse centers, prison ministries, juvenile courts and local food services for the indigent.
Those of us who knew Carol consider ourselves very fortunate. She loved to connect people together to make things happen and was a great inspiration for so many in this community and beyond. Her work and influence are gifts that will continue on—far into the future. Thank you Carol for sharing your immense talents, you will be missed. Read Carol Phelps’ obituary.