The Public Garden has long been a place of respite for Lynn Page Flaherty, but she was unaware of the Friends of the Public Garden before she leaned they were seeking a fresh hire to fill the newly created role of vice president for advancement and external affairs.
“My memories as a young professional include going to hide in the Public Garden for a while to get away from my office, but I didn’t know about the Friends group until someone shared with me who the group is and what they do,” said Flaherty, who began serving in the new role with the nonprofit group that works in partnership with the Boston Parks Department to care for the Public Garden, as well as the Boston Common and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, in late November. “And when you dive into breadth and depths of their work, you realize the organization makes such a difference not just for Boston residents, but also for the regular visitors to Boston, so I’m excited to help them build their presence and show how important they are.”
Flaherty was raised outside of Keene, N.H., and has never left the Boston area after coming here 30 year ago to attend Boston College as an undergraduate. Her memories of the city’s parks go back to childhood, though, when each December, her parents would bring her to the Common to see the holiday lights and hear her father singing Christmas carols.
The Boston Athletic Association’s 5K, which Flaherty describes as her favorite footrace, also starts between the Common and the Public Garden and takes place in and around the parks, so that experience, she said, had further deepened her appreciation for Downtown Boston’s public green-spaces.
Flaherty, meanwhile, joins the Friends group with more than 20 years of experience in education and human service-focused organizations. Most recently, she consulted for Marts & Lundy, a global philanthropy consulting firm based in Lyndwurst, N.J., and prior to that, she served as the chief development officer for Make-A-Wish, where she oversaw a $6.5-million annual fundraising budget, as well as a team of six.
In her now role, Flaherty is leading the Friends’ advancement and communications team, including overseeing the elevation of its branding and public messaging, as well as the group’s efforts to grow membership. She is also serving as a close “thought partner” to Liz Vizza, the group’s president while leading the Friends group’s 50th Anniversary Capital Campaign.
“It’s such an exciting time, anniversaries always are, to look at how the parks have evolved over time, and the partnerships that really make it happen,” she said. “And this campaign is so exciting because it really touches all three parks.”
At the Public Garden, the Friends intends to restore the Arlington Street entrance, as well as the two fountains depicting children on either side of it, Flaherty said, while planned work at the Commonwealth Avenue Mall includes lighting the statues and improving the landscaping there. A temporary, interactive art exhibit called “What Do We Have in Common?” will also be unveiled on the Common next fall.
As she settled into her new position, Flaherty was admittedly surprised at how much science goes into the Friends’ work.
“The park care people are truly scientists who understand organic soil management and restoring statues and public art – there’s really a science to that, too,” Flaherty said. “They’re brilliant about these things that we take for granted.”
Further, Flaherty has also been impressed to learn just how much support the Friends receives from its myriad partners.
“The Friends wouldn’t exist without the city, the state, civic, and business groups, other parks groups – it’s amazing how many people have a role in keeping these parks so special,” she said, “We want them to be part of our work, and to bring them all together.”