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Franklin Park Conservatory Women’s Board: A Sisterhood for Good

Published November 21, 2022

“I used to be surprised by the generosity of people, but I no longer am. People want to do good,” said Janet Kerekes, sponsorship co-chair for the Conservatory’s end-of-summer fundraising event, Field to Table. Over lunch in the Conservatory’s bright and airy Grand Atrium, Janet and her co-chair Gail Lewis shared what inspires them to support the Conservatory and how they and the 16 other Women’s Board members on the Field to Table committee helped pull together a beautiful summer soirée that raised a record-breaking $410,000.

Janet, a former sales manager and speech therapist, got involved with the Conservatory as a Women’s Board member in 2017. “It’s a little bit of what my career was–I’ve taken the fun pieces of what I’ve done as a career and applied them,” she said with her signature smile. Some people might be intimidated at the prospect of fundraising for such a large event, attended by more than 700 guests each year and filling the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden Campus and Grand Mallway with lively chatter and the booming sounds of a second line brass band–but not Janet and Gail. 

Gail, who previously helped organize grassroots fundraisers for the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, got looped into the Women’s Board in 2018. “Once I started, I was hooked,” she said. For Gail, the Women’s Board is a family affair. As we strolled through the Himalayan Mountain Biome after lunch, she shared photos from her daughter Barbie’s recent lakeside Michigan wedding, revealing that Barbie also serves as a Women’s Board member alongside her mom.

Gail Lewis and Janet Kerekes Women’s Board

This isn’t an unusual story. The full Women’s Board numbers 290 women, connected in a web of family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and former strangers who become friends, united in a sisterhood devoted to doing good. Field to Table was made possible by the collective effort of not just Janet and Gail, but all the Women’s Board event committee members working together under the leadership of event co-chairs Joan Kirschner and Barbara Brakemeyer Elliott to make the 2022 Field to Table the Conservatory’s most successful fundraising event of the year.

For the 2022 Field to Table event, Janet and Gail worked alongside Conservatory staff and other committee members to raise funds from fellow Women’s Board members as well as corporate partners–no small feat considering the major players who came to the table including Spark Joy Fund, ADS, Kroger, Big Lots Foundation, Cardinal Health, Crane Group, the Davis Foundation, Huntington, Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease and Bob-Boyd Auto Family, among many others.

Scenes from Field to Table in 2022

As part of their Women’s Board involvement, Janet and Gail also roll up their sleeves and volunteer. When asked what Conservatory program she connects with most, Janet didn’t hesitate, “nature therapy.” 

Twice a week, Janet helps out with the Conservatory’s Garden Explorations program, an on-site nature therapy program designed to provide persons with disabilities with accessible enrichment focused on plants and gardening. Four of the Conservatory’s Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden plots are held by nonprofit partners such as ARC Industries and Goodwill, who bring individuals with disabilities to the gardens for restorative time in nature.

Meanwhile, Gail has helped out with children’s programs as part of her volunteer work with the Conservatory. “[When] I started volunteering in the Children’s Garden, I was touched and amazed at the wealth of opportunities,” she shared. The Conservatory offers children’s programming in the garden through Discovery Stations, Garden Club, Nature Storytime and more throughout the summer months, as well as education programs embedded in the community like Head Start Discovery, which reaches income-qualified preschoolers, and FPC Camp STEM, facilitated within Columbus City Schools summer classrooms. 

The outreach and education programs that the Conservatory provides are made possible through the hard work of the Women’s Board, who have been steadfast supporters of the Conservatory since our founding in 1993. In the words of Conservatory President and CEO Bruce Harkey:

“We are beyond grateful to the many individuals, corporate sponsors, and Women’s Board members who gave so generously in support of the Conservatory’s mission through this year’s Field to Table fundraiser. Because of their investment, we can continue to provide free resources to community gardens, offer healthy local produce to neighbors through our Farmers Market, and strengthen initiatives that ensure the Conservatory is an accessible and welcoming space for all. We are also deeply grateful to our Women’s Board, who so successfully rallied our community to support these and other programs.”

Thanks again to Janet, Gail, and the entire Women’s Board for making Field to Table unforgettable, uplifting, and meaningful for everyone who participated!

The Women’s Board presents the record-breaking amount raised during Field to Table

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