Melinda Carmichael is the primary administrator, and co-founder along with her husband Paul, of Beech Creek Botanical Garden. She carries the passion of educating and inspiring people of all ages, especially youth, about horticulture and the environment.
- In 2 sentences, explain your work with the HWHF?
I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to work with the team from the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation – together we are educating thousands of children and adults about important environmental issues that affect all of us. We believe this collaboration has allowed us to inspire people to make better choices to help preserve our world.
2. Describe what your organization does best.
Offer environmental education to people of all ages in a creative and engaging way.
3. What’s the best part of your day?
I spend most of my time in the office, but when I get out: 1) Witnessing children or adults, having an
ah-ha moment while engaging with nature at one of our exhibits. 2) Teaching children art/environmental science during school field trips. 3) Exploring our woodlands and finding artistic treasures that only nature can create.
4. What are you currently working on?
We are in the midst of Christmas at Beech Creek Gardens, where we offer unique opportunities for families to include nature in their holiday activities. New this year, we’ve added a special wildlife presentation called Animals in Winter, and we’ve also added the “Night of Trees” Fundraising Gala. One major project we are currently working on is Nature Playce, a 2-acre nature playground where children can explore and play with natural elements such as sand, water, wood and living plants. This project is well underway and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2018. Another major project we are currently working on is the Creekside Center for Water Sciences, a rustic barn-style facility that will run on hydroelectric power and has interactive hands-on exhibits for learning about water science. Educational curriculum for the water science center is being developed for teaching grade school, middle school, high school and adults. We expect to begin teaching in the water science center by May of 2018.
5. When did you know you wanted to be a Director at a Public Garden & Nature Preserve?
I really didn’t “know”, I have “grown” into the position. As one of the Founders of the organization – you start with a vision and move forward.
6. What piece of advice would you give someone looking to break into this field?
Set big goals, work hard, be patient, start the work days earlier than anyone else, be confident, be grateful, stay humble, take time to walk in the woods.
7. What do you read for fun?
Don’t laugh . . . gardening magazines and environmental science articles.
8. Are you a Windows or Apple person?
9. What’s one thing you can’t work without?
A legal pad and mechanical pencil.
10. Who do you admire and why?
People who have invested their time teaching and nurturing children to become healthy adults. Especially making sure that they understand the connection between a healthy environment and good physical and mental health.
11. What’s the most interesting place you have ever been (for work)?
Longwood Gardens, very inspiring.
12. What’s the most interesting thing you have ever done?
Attended an educational exhibit design training session from Author and Expert Beverly Serrell.
13. What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for your work?
Pasadena, California for a week-long workshop.
14. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Raising four beautiful daughters. Not allowing obstacles to hold me back, instead viewing them as challenges and just another thing that can be learned and achieved.
15. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
Love to help take Beech Creek Gardens to a level where instead of thousands of people, we have hundreds of thousands of people visiting, learning and being inspired to make better choices for our environment. Also, to help create engaging learning exhibits that can be duplicated by other public gardens and nature preserves around the world.
16. What’s your favorite activity outside of work?
Spending time with my grandchildren, bicycling.
17. If you were on an island and could only bring three things – what would they be?
A knife, fresh water, matches.
18. How do you define success and how do you measure it?
I believe success is finding happiness everyday while you are working on accomplishing projects and goals that you’ve set for yourself. Measuring success for me – is when I can see the tangible results of my hard work making a positive effect on others.
19. Who were the most important people to help you create success in your life and what did they do for/with you? My husband early-on pushed me to limits that at-the-time I could not imagine reaching. And he has always inspired me with his talents and creativity. My daughters, because I have always strived to be a strong and positive role model for them. There are a few volunteers that over the years have given so much of themselves to move our project forward – they not only inspire me, but also unknowingly provide the emotional support that I need from time-to-time.
20. If you could do something as a career other than what you are doing now (no limits) what would it be? Directing a national non-profit that provides family-like orphanages for all the thousands of children without parents all over the world. These facilities would be managed by compassionate, nurturing adults who always keep the children’s best interest in focus, providing food, shelter, a great education, and a loving environment.
21. What are your top 3 favorite movies of all time?
It’s a Wonderful Life, Lord of the Rings-Fellowship of the Ring, Ever After
22. What are you doing now that will make a positive difference for future generations?
Everything we do at Beech Creek Gardens revolves around making a positive impact in people’s lives now and for future generations. Our mission is to provide educational opportunities and interactive experiences that inspire people to be good stewards of their communities and the world. It is so important that children and adults not just read about nature in books and learn about it on the TV, but actually get outside and experience nature firsthand and interact with it because that’s what will form a deep long-lasting connection with the environment which will hopefully inspire them to take better care of our earth.
23. If you could go back and talk to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell them?
Find a way to keep a healthy balance of existence. Spend more time enjoying loved ones, and exploring the outdoors.
24. How do you stay optimistic in today’s world?
I look for the good in every situation, do my best to show others how much I appreciate them, and believe in a better future.