Rich Brolick began his career in Horticulture with Zelenka Nursery, along the Lake Shore, in 1960, retiring in 2009 after 40 years as partner and CEO. Rich was introduced to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in the early stages by Zelenka’s then Staff Horticulturist, Ralph Shugert, who saw this institution as a great venue to bring knowledge of horticulture to everyone of all ages in West Michigan. Rich has since served on the Gardens Board of Directors twice, once as Chairman, and as an ex- officio member of the Frederik Meijer Gardens Foundation Board of Directors. He has served as a member of the Horticulture Committee since its inception and as Chairman in the early planning years.
Five years ago Brolick and his wife Sheri created a named fund at the Frederik Meijer Gardens Foundation, earmarked for Horticulture. In 2007, as part of their estate planning, they made provisions for a deferred gift to the Foundation, establishing them as Charter Members of the Perennial Society, an endowment fund designated for deferred gifts of $10,000 or more. “The process was much easier than I thought,” Rich commented. “It took longer to think about it than to do it! Our attorney wrote a letter to the Foundation and we were done.”
“We are fortunate that the management and staff of both the Gardens and the Foundation focus on a sound fiscal, financial and business approach. Unfortunately, operations do not generate enough revenue to sustain the multitude of quality services provided. Most botanical gardens rely on significant endowments to supplement their needs, which have been developed over time. I now realize that the single most important engine for the financial lifeblood of the Gardens is an endowment that keeps pace with the Gardens’ needs.”
The Brolicks have participated in various fundraising efforts for the Gardens. Rich worked on the campaign to raise money for the design and construction of the entrance. “We wanted to have something notable on the East Beltline four seasons a year,” he said. Sheri added, "A burst of color!” The Brolicks also are helping plan the spring Great Gardens Party, which has changed from a plant sale reception to a large, annual fundraiser. “Our goal is to make this one of the largest events of the year,” Rich said. “250 attended last year. Our goal is to get to 500 in a couple of years to help the Gardens.”
Rich said, “when I was asked to become involved, I never imagined Meijer Gardens could become what it is today in such a short time. Members and guests are enchanted and amazed at all there is for them and their families to enjoy. The atmosphere is wonderful and exciting. The staff and all the volunteers are amazing. They are there because they want to be!”
Rich summed up their feelings about the Gardens: “Today Meijer Gardens is enjoyed and appreciated in Grand Rapids, but also has an amazing and ever-increasing worldwide reputation. Sheri and I are proud of this place and want to do what we can to ensure its ongoing success and accomplishments for what it brings to West Michigan.”