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Investing in the Earth

The Story of Wylde Center: Creating Secret Wild Spaces for Children

Article by Gloria Bunn

Photography by Matthew Berberich Photography

Originally published in Decatur City Lifestyle

“This sanctuary places us in nature, reminding us that we are nature just as the hawk hovering above the unsuspecting mockingbird or the honey bee drinking from the damp ground.” -Sally Wylde

Step through the trellis-covered entry to Oakhurst Garden and be enveloped in the calls of songbirds, the rustle of hens in the chicken coop, and the beauty of nature in its intended state. This space would not exist were it not for a vision to take something small and invest in the story of the Decatur community.

In 1996,  Sally Wylde and her neighbor Louise Jackson were in a predicament. Children from the nearby elementary school were cutting through Mrs. Jackson’s yard and trampling her beloved garden. The women chose to partner with their neighborhood and invite the children to participate in caring for and restoring Mrs. Jackson’s garden. These women invested in the next generation and provided them with a new connection to nature. The group took such pride in their work, and the desire to learn about gardening spread throughout the community. By 1997, Sally Wylde and her husband purchased an underdeveloped lot in Decatur’s Oakhurst neighborhood. Oakhurst Community Garden Project was born, and Wylde Center was founded.

Since then, the community’s dedication to Wylde Center has expanded the nonprofit’s operation to five greenspaces: Oakhurst Garden, Sugar Creek Garden, Hawk Hollow, Edgewood Community Learning Garden, and Mulberry Fields Garden. These greenspaces are open year-round for the community. Wylde Center provides one of the largest environmental and science education youth programs in metro-Atlanta including the Decatur Farm to School program, Atlanta Farm to School, Healthy Living by Healthy Growing at the Decatur Housing Authority, and science program and field trips linked to Common Core standards.

These spaces create opportunities for a multigenerational connection to the environment while promoting social change. The chance for children to get outside and play in the soil inspires their motivation to care for nature in their community. Wylde Center educates on sustainable living and encourages environmental stewardship. Spending intentional time in nature can shift both mood and perspective. The challenges of life can often feel much smaller when we pay attention to the beauty that is always inviting us to care for it.

If you are interested in volunteering, please visit or

If you are interested in donating to Wylde Center, please visit

“The community connects with us, falls in love, and feels invested. They care what happens here.” -Jennifer Gerndt, Wylde Center Executive Director