Alpine Gardens receive posthumous donation | VailDaily.com

Alpine Gardens receive posthumous donation

Caroline Pope
Special to the Daily

Pat and Pete Frechette were a generous and humble couple. It's no surprise then, that they have kept on giving, even after they are gone.

In 1999, Beaver Creek became their second home. The Frechettes quickly became a fixture in town and believed in sharing their success with a myriad of non-profits in which they were involved, including Roundup River Ranch, Walking Mountains, The Vail Valley Medical Center, the Vail Valley Foundation, Vail Jazz and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

Pat had a love of flowers and gardening and was drawn to the beauty and mission of The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. The couple made their first pledge to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in 2004 and followed that up for five years with gifts directed toward the general operating fund.

On to the interns

In 2009 they became interested in the internship program and directed their monetary gifts to that program, significantly increasing their direct involvement and annual support. They began with an annual gift of $25,000 and increased it to $50,000 to fund a third intern and the interns' supervision through the partial support of a head gardener position. Pat was a member of the Advisory Board for several years and attended all the regular board meetings.

Every year The Gardens brings in three interns from colleges all over the US and occasionally, overseas. Interns are selected in what has now become a competitive process, based on their college courses and their interests and ambitions. All interns are from environmental, biological or horticultural backgrounds, with the focus in three areas, education, curation or documentation of the plant collections and in general garden maintenance. Not only is this a highly rated internship program nationally, setting students up for careers in botanical gardens and public horticulture but, quite simply, The Gardens couldn't manage without them in the busy summer months.

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Kate Love recently completed her three-month stint as a Horticultural and Curatorial intern. She worked in the gardens and with plant records. This fall, she is returning to work on her master's Degree in Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Kentucky.

"I found the internship through the American Public Gardens Association website, where jobs are posted online," Love said. "I hadn't spent much time in Colorado, and this internship gave me the opportunity to learn about the plants… I also went on field trips to see them in their natural habitat and learn more about mountain environment and what (Betty Ford Alpine Gardens) is doing to conserve and preserve the rare plants."

The Gardens provides and arranges for housing and assists in subsidizing the cost of housing, as well as paying interns for their summer work.

"I'll remember the great people who work there and their dedication to Vail and to Colorado to conserve the environment, preserve the plants and educate the public," Love noted.

The big bucks

In 2014 Pat and Pete gave the lead give of $1,000,000 for the new Education Center. This center had been a dream for The Gardens since its inception 30 years ago.

"I will never forget the moment that Susan Milhoan and I sat with the Frechettes for four hours and talked about The Gardens, their future plans, what our plans were with this education center," shared Nicola Ripley, Executive Director for The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. "Finally, I remember Pete sat back in his chair and asked, 'What do you want from us?'"

"I didn't know what to say," Ripley recalled. "We all knew what the number was on the table. Susan took over and said, 'Pete, we need $1,000,000 to make this happen' and he responded, 'You've got it'. We got out of the driveway, hugged each other and said it was amazing. I'll never forget that."

"Finally, the Town of Vail gave its approval and the Frechette's stepped in and made it a reality. There is no doubt that, without their gift, we would not be the thriving organization we are today. We are debt free."

The total raised for the building was 3.68 million dollars. This transformed the organization into a nationally recognized and admired botanical garden with a focus on environmental and plant education.

"I was ecstatic that someone would put that kind of trust in me which is incredible, but humbling, as well," said Nicola Ripley. "It put a lot of pressure on me, so we really had to come through. Thankfully, I believe we did just that and more, because now the Frechette Family Foundation has said they want to continue to support us."

Pat and Pete's Vail Valley memorial service was held at the Education Center at The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Shortly thereafter, Pat Perell, Executive Director of the Frechette Family Foundation, informed Ripley that the Foundation was interested in continuing the vision of Pat and Pete by endowing their annual gift of $50,000 to the internship program through an endowment gift of $1,000,000. Annually, the income from this gift will help cover the cost of the internships and part of the curator's salary to assist the interns. Next year, Ripley is hoping to increase the program to four interns, which will further enhance the Frechettes' vision of helping students on their career path in an environmental career.

"Flowers and education brought great joy to our mother's life and this program combines these two loves," said Kathy Tenhula and Kristy Woolfolk, the Frechettes' daughters. "Our parents helped launch this valuable internship program and continued to shepherd it throughout their lives. We are pleased, through the Foundation, to honor our parents by this endowment and carrying on the wonderful work of Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and its internship program."