Garden News
January 8, 2024

Seven Questions with Development Director Melissa G. Patrino

By Jaime Eschette

From the beginning, when Anna Dorinda Blaksley Bliss purchased the first 13 acres in Mission Canyon in 1926 with a request that it become a botanic garden, the Garden’s mission has been driven by the generosity of its fiercest supporters. Only with this support can we realize our mission – to conserve native plants and habitats so biodiversity thrives for the health and well-being of people and the planet.

For nearly a century, gifts large and small have come together to grow the native plant movement on the central coast. With your support, we’ll regenerate ecosystem health across the central coast and build a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Join us in this final episode of “Seven Questions” as we walk with Melissa G. Patrino to learn more about her and her work matching supporters with the causes that mean most to them.  

Hi Melissa, thank you for being here. This is a huge moment as we wrap up our fall appeal and the end of our seven-questions series. You’re the Garden’s director of Development, can you tell me what this position means to you? 

[Melissa] Thank you so much. I’ve been here at the Garden for almost two years, and it has been a great time. As the director of development, I get to work with great people. I get to meet amazing donors and amazing members. We embark on work that takes us from education to conservation and we get to talk about what native plants and biodiversity mean to Santa Barbara and our community.

Partnerships are integral to nonprofits. Can you tell me about a collaboration your team has worked on this year?

[Melissa] There’s been so many things. One of my favorite partnerships was with Museums for All, which provides low admission and reduced membership access to so many in our community. We also worked with the Santa Barbara Housing Authority to create our first-ever after-school program for Housing Authority kids.

While donations contribute to preserving the Garden’s beauty, we consistently highlight that we embody more than just a physical destination. What other areas do people’s contributions go towards?

[Melissa] Yes. We are more than a pretty place to come and visit. We have so much going on behind the scenes. We have conservation, we have education, we work on rare plants, and we have over two million seeds in our seed bank. We have this incredible herbarium where we keep over 200,000 specimens. While we are a pretty place to come visit, we have a lot more going on at the Garden.  There’s been so many things that have happened because of your support that I’ve been so thankful for this year.

What are some of the highlights that donors helped bring to life this year?

[Melissa] There are so many things that our donors have helped contribute to this year. You helped de-list rare plants with our Conservation Team and by donating to the Garden, you helped fund our conservation projects. We were also able to partner with the Santa Barbara Library and provide memberships people can check out. There were so many things that were made possible with your support.

This year, we’ve grown our Garden community tremendously. What are some ways people can become involved in the upcoming year?

[Melissa] By coming to visit us daily- if you want to! You can also become a member or you can volunteer at the Garden. There are so many opportunities for you to volunteer here. You can also plant a native plant. By planting a native plant in your garden or a pot, you are supporting biodiversity and our mission.

One of our favorite ways to get to know our supporters more personally is through our events. What are some events Garden supporters can look forward to in the upcoming year?

[Melissa] We have so much coming up next year, I’m so excited for so many things. But first and foremost, we have the Conservation Symposium happening on January 20. We have the Beer Garden happening on March 16, where we have an incredible lineup of breweries and restaurants. We have our summer camps happening. We have spring and fall Forage & Feast. We look forward to seeing you there.  

What inspires you here at the Garden? 

Really what inspires me are the people who work here, the people who volunteer here, and the people who contribute their time and their funding to make the Garden thrive and grow. We could not do it without you. So, thank you so much. Happy New Year, we look forward to seeing you soon!  

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