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.


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 External Data Strategy & Vendor Solutions team for Client Underwriting & Protection. She first joined MBNA America in 1999 while studying at the University of Delaware and began working full time in 2002 as a Business Lending Account Manager. Melissa proudly serves as Co-Chairperson and Executive Council Member of the Delaware Chapter of LEAD (Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Development) for Women, an Employee Network group at Bank of America. Melissa is also an active member of other Bank of America Employee Networks such as the Environmental Network, NAPN (Native American Professional Network), and HOLA (Hispanic/ Latino Organization for Leadership and Advancement). Melissa served as a coach for 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.

Ellen Muenter, Vice President

Docent, Brandywine Zoo

Ellen Muenter, a resident of Chadds Ford, PA, spends much of her time as a volunteer for nonprofits in Wilmington, Delaware. As a longtime docent of the Brandywine Zoo, she joined the Board of Friends of Wilmington Parks and acted as a liaison between both organizations. She actively volunteers for the Delaware Museum of Natural History, in addition to the Zoo and FOWP. As an event planner, she ran the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival and was also its Executive Director. She enjoys helping to plan events for FOWP as well as working in the Jasper Crane Rose Garden, where she was instrumental in the Garden’s 2014 renovation.

Edward C. Pankowski, Jr., Vice President

Attorney, City of Wilmington Law Department

Ed graduated from Salesianum School, University of Delaware, and Dickinson Law School. He is a former State Deputy Attorney General, Asst. Public Defender, Court Appointed Defense Counsel, who also maintained private Civil Law practice from 1978 to 2009. Ed has lived all his professional life in City near our parks and has been Steward since 2010.  He also serves as Secretary of the Police Athletic League, a Board member and mentor of Mike Clark Legacy Foundation at Boys & Girls Club, MS Bike to Bay Planning Committee, and St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Ann Church. Ed’s hobbies are cycling, distance running (he was a 4 time Qualifier for Boston Marathon!) and baseball (he was a scholarship ballplayer at U of D and played eight years of local Semipro baseball).

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.

Kathleen Patterson, Secretary

Administrative Assistant, Friends of Wilmington Parks

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 began serving as the Administrative Assistant in 2014 and is excited to expand her role with the organization as a Steward and Board Secretary. Kathleen enjoys exploring our Wilmington State Parks and beyond on foot and bicycle.

Grant Dick

Cooch and Taylor, P.A.

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

James A. McClain, Jr.


Lauren McMahon

Catering Sales Manager
Toscana at the Delaware Art Museum

Michael Melloy

Founder and President

Christine Moritz

Delaware Center for Horticulture

Denis P. O’Sullivan

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

Pamela Price

Senior Government
Relations Representative
Highmark Delaware

Charles F. Richards, Jr.

Director (Retired)
Richards, Layton & Finger

Joseph Valdrini

Merrill Lynch, Inc.


Gary Linarducci
Joseph P. Melloy, Sr.
June Peterson
Michael A. Porro
Lisa A. Schmidt

Park Historian and Author

Susan Mulchahey Chase, Ph.D


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