Skip to header Skip to main content Skip to footer
Helpful Village logo
Add me to your mailing list
Youtube channel Facebook page
Header image for Pasadena Village showing nearby mountains and the logo of the Pasadena Village

Blog archive

April 2024

March 2024

February 2024

January 2024

Village Volunteers Contribute to the Huntington Magic

By Sue Addelson
Posted: 01/24/2024
Tags: sue addleson

It’s always fun to meet fellow Pasadena Village members for the first time and discover you have common interests. Five members of our community recently discovered they share something they’re very passionate about. Ed Mervine, Bonnie Morrissey, Lorrie Gray, Kathy Wales and Linda Sindell all volunteer in the Huntington Botanical Gardens. Their passion comes from loving the work they do there; learning new things and meeting new people; and having a personal connection to this world-class institution.

Ed Mervine volunteers one day a week in the bonsai garden. “I saw my first bonsai tree in 1976 in Hawaii, and I was blown away. Almost 20 years later I started my first bonsai from seedlings from our yard. I didn’t know what I was doing; I learned by trial and error,” he says. “A lot of error,” he admits.

Fast forward another 20 years, when he was ready to retire. He took a bonsai class at Huntington Gardens taught by Ted Matson, the curator of the bonsai collection. While teaching the class, Ted kept one eye out for people who showed potential, who he might be able to recruit as volunteers. Ed was one of those people.

“My first day in the bonsai nursery, some six years ago, Ted put me on a tree to trim. He showed me what to do and I did it. He told me it ‘wasn’t bad for my first time ’ ” Ed recalls. The rest, as they say, is history. Ed’s been feeding, weeding, fertilizing and pruning trees in the bonsai nursery ever since.


Weeding in the edible gardens

Bonnie Morrissey is a gardener at heart. She readily admits she loves to dig in soil and get her hands dirty. “I just need to be around dirt and plants,” she says. Before volunteering at the Huntington, Bonnie hadn’t had a garden for more than three years. “I missed it, a lot. This position at Huntington fills that place in my soul. It fills a need that I have.”

She works in the two edible gardens: The Kitchen Garden and The Ranch. The Ranch is an experimental research garden. Bonnie explains, “There are a lot of fantastic fruit trees, pollinating plants, native plantings, an experimental Japanese vegetable garden and more. They collaborate with universities around the world on plants and climate changes. One experiment is how cow peas can handle drought and high heat.”

As a volunteer, Bonnie can get as involved as she wants. “I do a lot of weeding: harvesting and weeding, and pruning and weeding, and mulching and weeding. I just love being out there. It’s such a magical place.”


Looking at nature and art for enjoyment

It took Lorrie Gray almost eight months from when she applied to volunteer until completing her qualifications to become a school programs docent. Her journey started at an informational meeting about openings for volunteer positions. Lorrie went hoping to become a garden docent, but it turned out that the Huntington was not recruiting for that position. When she heard about school programs docents, she decided to pursue it because it combined two of her personal interests: gardening and art. 

Throughout the school year, grade schools and high schools take field trips to the Huntington. There are themed tours such as Plant Needs or Nature and Art. Lorrie had to learn them all and be able to adapt them to the students’ grade levels.

“The training was rigorous. Especially for me, since my background isn’t in education or art history, but I decided to step out of my comfort zone and take on the challenge,” she says.

Today she says it was all worth it. “I passed my qualifying tour evaluation in late 2023. Now I’m officially a school programs docent for grades K-12,” she says proudly. The museum education coordinator who evaluated her said, “I’ve never seen a teaching style like yours before and really like it.” With her unique teaching style, Lorrie has thoroughly enjoyed guiding students in how to look closely at nature and art for enjoyment.  


Sending students home with love for the garden

Kathy Wales has two volunteer positions at the Huntington: She’s a docent for student tours and an “Ask Me” docent at the Japanese Heritage Shōya House.


When she talks about her students — she always refers to them as “my students”— her entire face lights up. “They learn from me, but I learn so much more from them. It’s so interesting to see the world as they see it,” she says.


Kathy is a former teacher, but she cares less about what her kids learn, and more about what they experience. “I want them to love the Huntington and to go home and tell their parents to bring them back here,” she says. 


Kathy particularly enjoys her time with students in the Chinese Garden, where they truly experience what makes the Huntington so magical. She also likes the power walking involved in leading the students from the Chinese Garden via the steep stairs up to the Rose Garden from the Japanese Garden.
Kathy was attracted to the “Ask Me” docent position at the Japanese Heritage Shōya House because it fits nicely with what she already knew from being a volunteer at the USC Pacific Asia Museum, where she gives student tours and heads the Education Committee of its Docent Council.  
"Ask Me" docents are stationed at various posts around the site. Kathy prefers a post right outside the Shōya House where she can explain the squat toilet (designed so that the waste could be composted and used to fertilize the fields).  She often points out to visitors that she is no longer limber enough to use this kind of toilet and then shares a good laugh with them as they try to squat low enough to see if they could use it.



An introduction to Huntington history

Linda Sindell has been visiting the Huntington for many years, and volunteering her whole life, starting with UNICEF. Last August, these two passions coalesced, when she became a volunteer at the Huntington.

She loves everything about the Huntington, especially the Mansion, the Huntingtons and their history, which makes her job as docent at the Mapel Orientation Gallery perfect for her.

The gallery, where many first-time visitors stop before they explore the grounds, tells the history of Henry and Arabella Huntington through pictures, maps, books and film. Linda makes these visuals come alive.

“I welcome people, tell them what they can experience in the gallery and throughout their visit exploring the Library, Art and Gardens. Everyone who comes in is happy and it’s fun to provide information to them. And it’s fun meeting all these different people,” she says.

It’s a wonder Linda has time to volunteer at the Huntington. Many days, her busy life starts at 5:00 am with yoga and then off to swim practice. Linda is a member of the well-known Rose Bowl Aquatics Masters team. Then, when she takes off her swim cap, she puts on her volunteer hat and does fundraising for her team.

Linda also volunteers at Union Station Homeless Services in the kitchen; is an event planner for Pasadena Humane and Jericho Road; and provides marketing strategy to several organizations, including Pasadena Village. Add it up and she’s working for five or six different nonprofits, all as a volunteer.

“It’s rewarding. One way or another, I’m helping,” she says.

Blogs Topics Posts about this Topic