Board of Trustees
Who is Guiding Beech Creek?
Beech Creek Gardens is governed by a volunteer board of officers and trustees. The officers and trustees bring many years of experience from various organizations and industries. This diverse knowledge helps the Board refine Beech Creek‘s mission, prioritize projects, and develop and implement educational programs and site attractions. This helps provide a broad impact on the lives of visitors and program participants.
Summary Profiles for Current Board Members
Paul Carmichael, Executive Director
Paul is the “Visionary”, and co-founder of Beech Creek Botanical Garden. Paul has a passion for educating people about plant and environmental science. This passion is what inspired him to begin to develop a public garden & nature preserve. Paul is also a singer, songwriter, musician, and graphic artist. He uses these various talents to provide education to many different audiences. He is especially concerned about educationg our children to understand and appreciate the plants and environment which our life depends on. Paul’s creativity has inspired the creation of many educational programs for our youth. To date, Paul has taught over 10,000 elementary students through his UPSIDE Ohio Plant Science Program, and an additional 11,000+ students with his Amazing Garden Science program. He lectures to garden clubs and civic groups. He has coined the term “Green-edutainment”, as his programs and presentations often integrate music, art, literature, and sometimes magic with environmental science.
With over 36 years in horticulture, from 1981 to 2011, Paul co-owned the Lily of the Valley Herb Farm with wife Melinda, where they grew and sold over 1,000 different varieties of plants. Paul served as the head horticulturist since its inception. He specializes in botany and plant propagation.
Melinda Carmichael, Associate Director
Melinda is the primary administrator, and co-founder along with her husband Paul of Beech Creek Botanical Garden. Melinda has been instrumental since 1999 with the conceptual ideas in establishing Beech Creek Gardens. She also has a passion for educating others, and at Beech Creek Gardens she is able to connect people with plants educating and inspiring people of all ages, especially our youth, about horticulture and the environment. Melinda assists with grant writing, publishing the newsletter, creating brochures and marketing materials, annual events, program coordination, visitor services, volunteer coordinating, and more. She teaches many hands-on workshops for children and adults.
She has co-authored, along with her husband Paul and Professor Chuck McClaugherty of the University of Mount Union ~ the booklet “Native Plants of Ohio”. To date over 12,000 copies have been distributed throughout the State. She authored & designed an educational booklet “The Backyard Green Guardian”. This booklet shares ideas for living more sustainably. It is geared toward gardeners and homeowners.
Melinda serves as Project Director for an Urban Youth Community Garden program. This program works with at-risk teens to grow organic vegetables and foods while learning about horticulture, plant and environment science, nutrition, and art. Participating teens are mentored through this program to foster a good work ethic, self-esteem, citizenship, and leadership.
Melinda was co-owner of Lily of the Valley Herb Farm, with her husband Paul from 1981 thru 2011. During this time, she managed most of the business functions including: Administration, Accounting, Human Resources, Propagation Production, Merchandising, and Marketing.
*** Special Note About the Carmichael’s ***
Paul & Melinda Carmichael began the journey to create a public garden & nature preserve in 1999, while operating their greenhouse business Lily of the Valley Herb Farm. From 1999 to December, 2011 they invested numerous hours of time, personal funds, donated plants and equipment toward this goal. As the organization grew, and facilities and programs were developed, the work load also grew and it became increasingly difficult for them to operate both their business and the nonprofit – Beech Creek Gardens, and in late 2011, Paul & Melinda made the decision to close their business Lily of the Valley, to dedicate all of their time and effort to Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve. Paul & Melinda have four grown daughters, and three grandsons.
Diane Johnson-Keller, President
Diane is a Certified Naturalist Volunteer, she is retired from working in the insurance business for over 30 years. Diane has a passion for animals and nature. She is dedicated to helping the organization preserve the plant and animal wildlife at Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve.
Craig Sonntag, Vice President
Craig is currently in the role of an IT Director, and uses his technology skills and experience to benefit Beech Creek. He fulfilled the bulk of his volunteer hour requirements to become an Ohio State University Master Gardener by volunteering at Beech Creek.
Craig has degrees from the University of Akron in Computer Programming, Industrial Management, as well as an MBA in Business. He has over 25 years experience as a programmer, analyst, project manager, and consultant. Industry experience includes county and state government, software development, technology consulting, manufacturing, construction, and healthcare insurance. Craig has also taught part-time at the University of Akron.
Dan Callahan, Treasurer
Mr. Daniel Callahan was appointed Treasurer and began serving as of January 1, 2014. He is interested in keeping our organization fiscally sound and assisting with strategic planning.
Dan, lives in Hartville with his wife Becky. He is a Certified Public Accountant and works as a Tax Accountant for the Internal Revenue Service. Dan has served as Chairman for The United Way Campaign. “The advancement of the Beech Creek mission has become a joint interest for me and my wife Becky. I would like to contribute my business background and experience to help Beech Creek grow and expand its presence in the community”.
Rebecca Lewis, Secretary
Rebecca has been an active member and volunteer for many years. Former homemaker, girl scout leader and naturalist. Rebecca is committed to helping the organization flourish.
Robert Frato, Trustee
Robert Frato, lives in North Canton and is semi-retired, B.S. Civil Engineering, CSU, M.S. Environmental Sciences. Bob currently teaches part time for the Stark County Educational Service Center. He has been a member of numerous non-profits, associations and civic organizations. “Having been immediately impressed by what is being done at Beech Creek, and what is planned, I felt that I would like to use my abilities and experiences to contribute to the continued growth and success of Beech Creek”.
Perry Mann, Trustee
Child Care Director, Alliance YMCA, B.A. in History, Minor in Education, M.S. in Education, and Synergy Alliance Member. Perry has a passion for plants, the environment and educating children.
Becky Callahan, Trustee
Becky is a Corporate Supply Manager at ComDoc. Becky is a recent Leadership Stark County graduate, volunteers for Stark Parks, and belongs to Impact 100. She loves the outdoors and believes that it is important to preserve our environment, as well as teach our children the importance of nature.
Allison Allsopp, Trustee
Allison is an education specialist, she tutors special needs students in the Louisville Local Schools. She has a special connection to the Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve property as she is the granddaughter of the previous land owners, Emil & Mary Lou Mille. Mary Lou Mille was a science teacher and she and her husband Emil desired to see this land preserved and used for the education and enjoyment of others, especially children. Committed to this goal, Allison’s grandparents Emil & Mary Lou, graciously sold the land to our nonprofit organization for 25% less than the appraised value. Allison has a deep desire to help carry out her grandparents wishes for the land.
William Downs, Trustee
Mr. Downs is a retired Engineer, he has been an active member of Beech Creek Botanical Garden for many years. He and his wife Penny serve on a couple different committees helping to coordinate and present some of our educational programs. They also act as assistant Trail Stewards.