‘Always something you can do:’ Lake environmentalist’s mission is getting people to care

Jane Hepting dedicates much of her time to conservation

MOUNT DORA, Fla. – This is Earth Week, a time to raise awareness about environmental issues. And this week’s Getting Results Award winner is leading the charge in Lake County.

Jane Hepting has dedicated much of her time to preserving Lake County’s natural resources and those close to her thought she deserved to be recognized.

On any given weekend, Downtown Mount Dora draws tourists and sightseers to its shops and restaurants.

But last weekend, Donnelly Park was the destination for many environmentalists.

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It was a celebration of Earth Day, and over in the corner just past the native plants and recycling demonstrations, you would find Jane Hepting.

Hepting stood under the Lake County Conservation Council tent. She was explaining the ins and outs of local government and spreading the word about preserving clean water.

“If you want to make a difference with regard to your environment you’re going to have to be aware of who has the power to make decisions,” she told a group of people who stopped by.

Hepting moved to Lake County 20 years ago. She and her husband are avid boaters.

“We were having lots and lots of fun but a couple of years ago I thought we also need to give back,” Hepting remembered. “We need to start caring for and helping our lakes in some way.”

So Hepting volunteered with a number of organizations.

“They were all saying the same thing. ‘We don’t know how to have a bigger voice. We don’t know how to reach out to a diverse population,’” she said.

So Hepting leaned on her organizational skills and experience working for a nonprofit in Pennsylvania.

She helped reestablish the Lake County Conservation Council. Her motivation was to bring all the environmental groups in Lake County together.

“There’s always something you can do to make a difference,” Hepting said.

A year and a half ago Hepting organized a forum with 15 environmental groups at Trout Lake Nature Center in Eustis.

Last month she organized the 2023 Eco Expo: Saving Lake County, Awareness to Action event at Lake-Sumter State College in Leesburg. It included 21 exhibitors, eight workshops and a handful of speakers.

“The environment is so beautiful and we need to hang on to it,” Hepting said. “Yes, this takes up a lot of my time but there’s a sense of urgency. We can’t keep polluting our lakes. We can’t keep having growth that’s not smart.”

Karen Frank nominated Hepting for the News 6 Getting Results Award. “She’s getting results for conservation in Lake County,” Frank said. “She’s a dedicated volunteer and she deserves to be recognized for it.”

Karen Woolhouse was at the Earth Day event representing the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lake County.

“It’s not just conservation. Jane is the kind of person who helps with everything‚” Woolhouse said. “Most of all she’s a wonderful person. If you have a problem, Jane wants to help you.”

“I promised myself 20 years ago that when I got older I would get involved in the environment,” Hepting said, recalling her career. “I knew that the environment would be more fun.”

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.