Volunteer Spotlight: Michelle Panasiuk
Aug 02

Volunteer Spotlight: Michelle Panasiuk

By Alexa Sinatra

Phipps is well-known for our beautiful gardens, seasonal flower shows, pioneering sustainability initiatives, informative educational programs and community outreach. None of our work, however, would be possible without the knowledge and dedication of our volunteers. In this series of profiles, we meet some of the people who give their time to make Phipps possible.

A volunteer at Phipps for 9 years, Michelle Panasiuk says plants have always been a part of her life. Some of her earliest memories are of helping her mother garden and Michelle now has a plentiful collection of her own! Currently she has a vegetable garden, flower beds and countless house plants. She says, "At last count, there were 250 orchids in the basement alone!" 

In 2013, Michelle completed the master gardener program and loved it which made volunteering seem like the natural thing to do next! Her volunteering began in the outdoor garden with hopes of eventually moving to the production greenhouses. Luckily a spot opened and Michelle was able to focus on repotting and planting seeds until another spot opened up, this time in the Orchid Room. She says, “When I learned Phipps needed a volunteer in the orchid room, I didn’t think twice.” Her love for orchids allows her to thrive in this position!

In addition to the master gardener program, Michelle has also completed the sustainable horticulture certificate program and is now working on landscape design courses. Her favorite part of volunteering is being hands on with the plants that she cares for. Since orchids are part of the permanent collection, Michelle says “It’s very rewarding to see the plants that I care for regularly on display in the Conservatory.”

Each morning, Michelle checks which plants need water or fertilizer while also looking for any signs of problems within the plants such as pests. Outside of Phipps, when she isn't running her online retail business, Michelle spends time volunteering as secretary at a local community organization along with the Orchid Society of Western Pennsylvania (OSWP) to repot orchids. We're so happy we get to be a part of Michelle's passion for volunteering along with her desire to learn about and care for plants!