Meet the 2023 Wild Ones West Cook Board

The West Cook Wild Ones Board is made up of ten people who work together to run our organization. We have a lot of fun as we promote and advocate for native plant gardening. We do this by planning and implementing our educational programs, running plant sales, and awarding grants.

Laura Hartwell-Berlin, President, Program Co-Chair
Laura has been a longtime advocate, supporter, and volunteer with WOWC. She has made our chapter stronger than ever with her organizational skills, tenacity, and willingness to adjust and adapt. Laura oversees several critical areas: Programs, the Native Garden Tour, and plant sales.

Stephanie Walquist, Vice-president and Founding Member
Stephanie has also been with WOWC since 2013. Her passion has been in developing Programs, Communications, and Community Outreach. She brings a sense of urgency about planting natives and what she terms eco-sensitive maintenance.

Sharon Storbeck, Treasurer
Sharon has also been with WOWC shortly after its founding. She is also on the Plant Sale Committee. She has given us steady guidance about our finances and plant sales strategies over the years.

Candace Blank, Membership Chair
A long-time member whom we finally convinced to join the board, Candace is an instrumental part of Wild Ones and has developed systems of welcoming and retaining members of our organization. She is passionate about our mission and about members. With whatever we do, she reminds us about where our focus should be: on members.

Doug Chien, Board Member, Board Member and Grant Committee ChairDouglas brings 25+ years of professional and volunteer experience in native landscaping, ecological restoration, and environmental advocacy. He’s a volunteer Steward of an Illinois Nature Preserve within the Cook County forest preserves. His home reflects his values with native landscaping and a high-efficiency building envelope.

Carolyn Cullen, Plant Sale Committee Chairperson
Carolyn has been with WOWC since 2014 and a Wild Ones member since 2000. A long-time native plant advocate and restoration volunteer, Carolyn joined to help bring native plants to home gardens. She is the woman behind our Shopify site, a model for so many other non-profits and WO chapters.

Adrian Ayres Fisher, Board Member and Programming Committee 

Adrian is a long-time WOWC participant who loves native plants and our Northern Illinois ecosystem. She gardens for pollinators at home and volunteers with the Forest Preserves of Cook County at several sites. Adrian is also our lead on many advocacy initiatives; she brings her depth of knowledge, research, and writing skills to many issues and is focused on results.

Lauren Frame, Board Member

Lauren has been a passionate native plant gardener and native ecosystem enthusiast for her entire adult life. She applies this commitment in her own backyard as well as acting as a resource and advocate for her community. This year Lauren worked with the Brookfield Conservation Committee to house and nurse saplings to add to disturbed areas along the creek and oak savanna. She has also worked to establish native plantings in public garden spaces, including the UIHealth Pediatric Memorial Garden in Chicago. Seeing the benefits of this pocket garden through pollinator activity and human engagement has given her a drive to continue creating wild spaces within the urban environment. 

Lauren wants to join the board because she believes in the mission of WCWO and wants to see its continued growth and success. She admires WCWO’s work in both educating and reclaiming so many spaces with native plants through the sales, garden tours, and educational opportunities and would love working with like minded, mission-oriented peers to continue this work. 

Lauren would serve the needs of WCWO as a board member with her commitment to equitable spaces and experience promoting diversity equity and inclusion initiatives. She is currently a returning student at the University of Illinois at Chicago studying occupational therapy with an emphasis on disability and improving accessibility for underserved populations. Lauren believes these areas have a lot of overlap with WCWO’s mission of accessibility for all and that a healthy environment is essential to health and wellness. Lauren works collaboratively with many organizations and individuals and would love to apply those skills at WCWO. Lauren also has experience with outreach and grant writing.

Dimitra Lavrakas, Board Member and Membership Committee

Dimitra grew up in the woods and is from a long line of Greek peasants who were organic gardeners. She is one of the founders of Taitya Inlet Watershed Council in Skagway, Alaska, and was an AmeriCorps environmental advisor to the Skagway Traditional Council, an Alaska Native organization — also in Skagway.

 Dimitra has lived in Oak Park for almost three years and is a member of OPCAN, but she would also like to focus on native plants and trees. She gardens a plot at the end of her alley with nectar-rich flowers for pollinators – it’s over the fence from Pleasant Home. 

Dimitra would also like to focus on the Village’s planting practices to have more native plants that feed pollinators and birds (more berry trees and bushes!) More perennials so they don’t have to switch out all the plantings as the seasons change. Also, she’d like to see critical habitats protected — for instance, just down the street there’s a swale she thinks at the corner of Pleasant and South Marion that has a ground bee nest. 

Laura Stamp, Board Member

Laura Stamp is a science teacher and works to ensure students are connected to the natural world. She is helping West Cook Wild Ones work with schools and students to increase awareness of native plants and insects. She has a wealth of experience in other conservation-based programs.

Outgoing board members:

We want to recognize our board members who finished their terms and left a lasting impact on Wild Ones West Cook :

Kerrie Gonzalez, Volunteer Co-ordinator

Kerrie served Wild Ones West Cook as Volunteer Coordinator. During this time, she worked with various committees to organize volunteer support for events. In this role, she made use of her professional skills in training and development and project management. Kerrie managed numerous volunteer efforts with her keen eye for organization and with grace and good humor. She made us better and we will miss her.

Byron Lanning, Secretary Board Member

Byron served Wild Ones West Cook as a longtime board member including a three year stint as our Board Secretary. He is the person who made our dream come true of our yard sign. While on the board, Byron helped to install and maintain native plant gardens and was a general font of native plant and restoration knowledge. Fortunately, Byron will remain the creative voice behind our newsletters. We are so lucky that he lends his unique style and voice to us!