'Ms. Wildwood' Honored for 45 Years of Service to Park
In 1974, volunteers went door-to-door seeking support for a citizens initiative to preserve the former Stranahan estate in West Toledo as a park. One of those doors belonged to Penny Reder. Forty-five years later, Penny is still as devoted as ever to the Metropark that she championed, Wildwood Preserve.
“Bill Roccia knocked on the door…and the rest is history,” Penny said Tuesday morning before a gathering of about three dozen friends, fellow volunteers and Metroparks staff in front of the Metz Visitors Center.
The occasion was the unveiling of a park bench dedicated to Penny’s decades of support and enthusiasm for what is now a park that welcomes more than 1.2 million visitors a year.
Citizens for Metroparks, led by a veterinarian, Dr. Bill Mewborn, convinced the community to pass a levy to purchase the former estate grounds, including the 30,000-square-foot mansion now known as the Manor House.
”How this property became a park is one of the greatest stories in Metroparks history,” said Dave Zenk, executive director. “Simply put, our most popular Metropark would not even be here if not for people like Penny. To think that more than 45 years later people who fought the good fight to preserve this land for our community are still here caring for it, continuing to give back, is astounding.”
After that successful campaign, a group including Penny and her husband, Dick, formed Volunteers In Parks, which continues today to raise funds for unbudgeted items requested by the Metroparks staff. To date, the VIPs have awarded small grants totaling more than $88,000, Dick said.
At Tuesday’s bench dedication, Trish Hausknecht, volunteer program manager, pointed out that there is more to Penny’s service.
From folding flyers, making calls and talking to her neighbors about the importance of preserving the property in the 1970s, to her nearly daily walks today with a pair of hiking poles on the Brown Trail collecting any tiny piece of litter in an orange plastic bag, Penny’s dedication to the park is ceaseless.
“Her story with Metroparks continues,” Trish said.
At the Manor House, Penny has been a volunteer docent, decorator and helper at teas and other signature events, such as Music in the Grand Manor, ice cream socials and the Collectables series. For 20 years, she managed a craft show in conjunction with Holidays in the Manor House. Before that, she volunteered at the former Cardinal gift shop in Metroparks hall.
“When it comes to total lifetime volunteer hours, Penny is in the top five at Metroparks,” Trish said. “She has given about 200 volunteer hours each year.”
Park visitors appreciate it, Trish continued. “Recently our executive director received a letter all about Penny and the impact she has on the park. The writer dubbed her ‘Ms. Wildwood.’ “
The writer also gave a monetary donation, insisting that Ms. Wildwood “MUST be recognized for her unselfish deeds.”
When the letter and donation reached the desk of Ally Effler, director of philanthropy, she agreed. She contacted park supervisor Anthony Amstutz, who had in mind a bench in a prime location at Wildwood that he thought would be perfect.
Tuesday morning, Anthony and district supervisor Nate Ramsey unveiled the bench, which has a plaque with this inscription:
Champion of Wildwood
for More Than 45 years