Donor Spotlight: Mary Love May and Paul Gabrielson

The campaign to raise funding for our River Bend Farm project brings forth the opportunity for special people to be honored by family and friends through gifts in their name. The places at River Bend Farm that have been (and continue to be!) named hold heartfelt stories of people and businesses whose life’s mission or business promise is to preserve our natural resources and promote their conservation through educational programming. In several instances our supporters have been inspired to raise funds from friends and family in honor of someone they hold dear. We look forward to this opportunity to share the intimate and inspired purpose of many gifts with our community!

During the fall of 2012, a young woman was faced with two offers for employment from outdoor education institutions: one was a large well-known organization with an established science curriculum of species identification; the other was smaller and less well-known requiring you to develop your own lessons and games to teach themes. Deciding on the latter and harder of the two, Sara Gabrielson began her first term as an Educator at The Ecology School.

Sara soon began pointing out to her parents (who are environmental educators themselves), Paul Gabrielson and Mary Love May, how the school was different. “Sara explained the vision of The Ecology School and saw how she fit into that vision—she understood the part she played in the greater whole. It wasn’t easy, but she loved it and couldn’t stop talking about it,” said Paul.

When Mary Love and Paul picked Sara up on the last day of her term, they were drawn to stop into the office and speak with Drew.

“This feels like a different place—there’s a creative element that other outdoor education centers don’t have—an intertwining of the sciences and the humanities... It was a mutually invigorating conversation and we left with a feeling of a place which generates life, creativity, and curiosity.”
— Mary Love May

“What was inspiring about talking to Drew was that we could see this vision in action,” added Paul. Well after Sara’s second term, Drew remained in touch with Mary Love and Paul. Following discussions about a new home for The Ecology School, they realized they could do something more to help. “The School is an organization that is successful and committed to its vision. It’s a place that we had come to care about because of our very personal connection. It was important for me to share it with my sister and brother.” Together with their family (Mark and Jane Ritchie and Michael and Leslie May), they helped launch The Ecology School’s Land Acquisition Challenge in 2016 with a combined gift of $60,000. Without knowing it, they had also launched the silent phase of our Capital Campaign and ensured the School’s future home!

Following the successful Land Acquisition Challenge, Mary Love and Paul donated another $75,000 in Honor of Sara Gabrielson and the educators from Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 terms. Both Mary Love and Paul’s commitment to The Ecology School goes well beyond financial support. They have provided a resounding “YES!” and constant encouragement. When asked why they support the School, Mary Love and Paul said together, “The various ecosystems that are at River Bend Farm, the expansion of the food systems program, the new hands-on activities for students, and new programs for adults, it’s like a great marriage. Your vision encompasses all of that and more. It supports a child’s curiosity which needs to be stoked and gets them away from screens and into nature.”

From dorm rooms to outdoor pathways, each thoughtfully designed feature of the River Bend Farm project models sustainable construction and ecological practices and serves as a teaching resource for our program participants. If you would like to learn more about naming opportunities at River Bend Farm, please contact Development Director, Bryan Matluk at (207) 283-9951 or bryan@theecologyschool.org.

Paul Gabrielson and Mary Love May

Paul Gabrielson and Mary Love May

Sara Gabrielson

Sara Gabrielson