Friends of Wilmington Parks is a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1991 as a grass-roots organization of supporters who wanted to restore Brandywine Park to its original splendor. The Friends of Wilmington Parks currently has 500 members, making it Delaware’s largest Friends organization. Working with the State of Delaware Division of Parks & Recreation and the City of Wilmington, the Friends are committed to the preservation and maintenance of the Wilmington State Parks system.

Our mission is the sensitive restoration of parkland and historic structures and the support of educational, recreational, and cultural programs for the public. FOWP is committed to maintaining the natural beauty and historic monuments of the Wilmington State Parks, which are part of the Delaware State Parks system: Brandywine Park, Rockford Park, Kentmere Parkway, Alapocas Run State Park, and H. Fletcher Brown Park.


Donald W. Jackson, Executive Director

Donald serves as the Executive Director of Friends of Wilmington Parks. Previously, for over two decades Donald served as the Director of Horticulture for the Williamson College of the Trades, teaching and mentoring young men during their three years of technical and personal education. Previously, he served in leadership roles at the Kansas City Zoologial Gardens, Zoo Atlanta, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens and at the Stanley M. Rowe Arboretum.

He has taught courses at Delaware County Community College as a Continuing Education instructor for over a decade, has published nearly 100 articles in a nationally recognized popular and professional horticulture magazines and published a collegiate textbook entitled Horticulture Management & Supervision. Donald resides with his beloved wife in Brookhaven, PA.


The FOWP Board of Stewards is comprised of civic, legal, business, nonprofit, education, financial, and horticultural leaders. Each board member serves a one-year term, and elections occur at the FOWP Annual Meeting in November.

Melissa Russell-Payne, President

Vice President, Bank of America

Melissa Russell-Payne is a Vice President at Bank of America and serves on the Vendor Strategy & Analytics Enablement team for Client Underwriting & Protection. Melissa proudly serves as Mid East Regional Leader and Executive Council Member of the Delaware Chapter of LEAD (Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Development) for Women at Bank of America and has coached Girls on the Run. Additionally, Melissa completed a fellowship with the Leadership Delaware, Inc. Program in 2011, and served as a member of the inaugural Alumni Advisory Board. Melissa resides in Trolley Square with her husband and enjoys visiting the parks with her dog.

Kathleen Patterson, Vice President

Volunteer, Longwood Gardens

Kathleen lives in the Ninth Ward area of Wilmington just a mile walk to Brandywine Park. She is very active in the community as a volunteer. Kathleen’s first introduction to Friends of Wilmington Parks was at a Rose Garden Party. She joined the Friends and served as the Administrative Assistant. She most recently served as a Steward and Board Secretary. Kathleen enjoys exploring our Wilmington State Parks and beyond on foot and bicycle.

David Sorber, Treasurer

Mortgage Loan Officer, Citizens Bank

David Sorber is a lifelong resident of the Wilmington area. A graduate of St. Edmonds Academy, Salesianum School, and the University of Delaware, he has been a member of the Friends board since 2000. He has been a banker in Wilmington for over 40 years and is currently Senior Mortgage Loan Officer at Citizens Bank. He and his wife Marie live in the Delaware Avenue neighborhood near Brandywine Park. He and his dog Max are daily park walkers.

Blair Tkacz, Secretary

Vice President, Bank of America

Blair is a Vice President at Bank of America and serves on the Vendor Strategy & Analytics Enablement team for Client Underwriting & Protection and has served in a variety of roles supporting Consumer Card Underwriting since joining the company in 2007. Blair resides in Trolley Square.  She is active within the Year Up Wilmington organization which strives to close the opportunity divide.  In her spare time she likes to spend time with family and friends, traveling and enjoys the outdoors with her dog.

Andy Croce

Agilent Technologies

Grant Dick

Cooch and Taylor, P.A.

Ellen Donohue

Financial Services Representative and Financial Advisor
Creative Financial Group

David Jezyk

Supervision of Special Ed
for New Castle County
Vo-Tech School District

Leah Kacanda, AICP

Chair, Board of Directors, Urban Bike Project
Project Manager, City of Wilmington Office of Economic Development

Jill Karlson

Director of Public Programming
Delaware Museum of Natural History

Lauren McMahon

Catering Sales Manager
Toscana at the Delaware Art Museum

Denis P. O’Sullivan

Vice-president, Hunter Lott Realty
President, Bruce Realty Co., Inc.


Becky Phillips

Partnership Development and Cause Marketing
Nemours Fund for Children’s Health

Pamela Price

Senior Government
Relations Representative
Highmark Delaware

Carie Riley Sweet

Event Sales and Marketing
Rock Manor Golf Course

Joseph Valdrini

Merrill Lynch, Inc.


Gary Linarducci
Joseph P. Melloy, Sr.
June Peterson
Michael A. Porro
Charles F. Richards, Jr.
Lisa A. Schmidt

Park Historian and Author

Susan Mulchahey Chase, Ph.D


Learn more about our community!