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Volunteer Spotlight: Toni Black
Nov 16

Volunteer Spotlight: Toni Black

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.

Toni Black moved to Pittsburgh after college to pursue a career in finance before settling in the Forest Hills area to raise her two children. Her interest in gardening stems from time spent with her grandmother who had a vast garden growing both flowers and vegetables. Toni recalls, “She would walk with us and name everything as she pointed. She also had a number of houseplants and I specifically remember being by her side as she did some propagating and repotting in her basement one day.” It wasn’t until Toni became a homeowner that her own passion for gardening truly began to flourish and she hasn’t stopped since!

In fall of 2018, Toni discovered The Master Gardener program while perusing the Phipps website. She was eager to be “immersed in the array of subjects that the program offered” and get more involved throughout the Pittsburgh community. Toni has worked on a wide range of tasks to complete the program requirements such as counting packages of seeds for the Homegrown Program, helping out in Botany Hall Kitchen, and doing maintenance in the Conservatory and Garden Center.

Toni was able to fully participate in volunteering at Phipps in 2018 up until lockdown began. She states, “Actually, the last thing I did the Thursday before lockdown was plant flowers for the Spring Show that no one ever saw.” Luckily, once things began to return to normal, Toni was able to use volunteering at Phipps as a way to get back into the world again. Since last November, Toni waters in the orchid greenhouse every Tuesday while continuing to work seasonal events as they come up. In August, she completed Docent training and is now able to tour guests around the Conservatory!

When asked her favorite part about volunteering at Phipps, she said, “Engaging with others who enjoy gardening together and sharing good conversation about plant environments and gardening. While I can be so fulfilled by working alone in my home garden, it is a different kind of happiness and satisfaction that I feel amongst others with the same passion.” We look forward to watching Toni grow alongside Phipps as she continues to volunteer in so many ways!