Presidents Corner

Posted Aug 01, 2017

By now you may know that I have left Asbury Woods for a new opportunity,having accepted the position of Executive Director of Montana Audubon. Although I am excited for this new challenge, it is with a heavy heart that I leave behind the “Woods”. I arrived in Erie in 2014 at a critical time for the organization. The Millcreek Township School District, which recognized the intrinsic value of Asbury Woods, had approached the Asbury Woods Partnership about purchasing the property. This presented a challenge to the organization. If we could raise the funds to purchase the property, not only would the environmental curriculum be protected, but also Asbury Woods Nature Center and the associated greenspace could become more responsive to the needs of the entire community. With significant support from the community, we successfully navigated a number of challenges and completed the purchase of Asbury Woods, and the land is now preserved for conservation and community use in perpetuity and allows for the expansion of community education, recreation, and engagement. At the same time, we also needed to transform the organization from one that relied on support from the school district to one that is supported by the community. This included initiating a major donor cultivation program, increasing sponsorships through a renewed Corporate Giving program, and securing over $1.5 million in state, county, and local grants. In addition, we launched our $4.5 million Preserving a Legacy Capital Campaign to fund much needed capital projects and grow an endowment that will be critical to the survival of the Nature Center and the newly created Asbury Woods Nature Preserve. To date we have raised $3.6 million and are one of the only Capital Campaigns to be endorsed by the Erie Community Fund Drives Committee – a group consisting of local corporate and foundation leaders that carefully selects 2-3 community campaigns each year that are best positioned for success. In just over two years we have increased assets nearly tenfold and have evolved from a non-profit that relied on funding through a public-private partnership with a school district to a fully independent organization. Asbury Woods has emerged from the acquisition process stronger than it has ever been. The Asbury Woods Partnership has achieved its goal of protecting Asbury Woods in perpetuity and has dramatically raised its profile in the community. This valuable community asset will continue to give all people in our community access to nature spaces and outdoor recreation.

From the Woods,

Larry Berrin