Leach Garden Friends recently received a $130,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust of Vancouver, Washington, for Building Capacity to Serve Growing Audiences. This grant will be spread over three years as the Garden reopens and begins to operate new facilities. The funds help us add the position of Visitor Services Manager, and we are pleased to announce that Virginia Brandabur has accepted this role. Virginia has been working at the garden in the rentals program since 2019, and has prior experience at the garden both as a volunteer and program partner with the Lilla Literary reading series. The grant funds will also pay for visitor services training, construction of wayfinding kiosks, creation of visitor materials, purchase and installation of point-of-sale software, and related expenditures.


Leach Garden Friends, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, maintains and operates the 16 acre botanical garden, including managing and presenting more than 1,000 species of plants. Leach is a place of exciting and experiential learning with classes for all ages focused STEM/STEAM subjects such as health, science, exploring nature, principles of botanical science and horticulture and the arts. Lectures and other events broaden our appeal to a wide variety of groups. As the only cultural institution of its kind in East Portland, Leach plays a critical role in this densely populated, multicultural community, in ongoing partnership with Portland Parks & Recreation. We provide space for organizations with related missions to carry out their programs including youth leadership training, day camps, fieldwork and scientific study in natural and riparian areas, retreats, trainings, and similar programs. We recruit and train interns in the working mechanics of botanical gardens, non-profit and community serving organizations, Leach is a welcoming and stimulating place where people can find respite and quiet or discuss broad ranging ideas. Our mission is driven by the lived values of our founding couple, Lilla and John Leach. Connection, inclusion, collaboration, curiosity, diversity, inspiration, sustainability, and stewardship; these values inspire all that we do.


Virginia Brandabur

Virginia Brandabur

Visitor Services Manager

Virginia Brandabur discovered Leach Botanical Garden when she happened upon a Board member, Dale Shetler, at the Space Age gas station several years ago. Through that chance meeting, Virginia became a neighbor of the garden, which led to her volunteering in the gift shop, at special events, and at the summer lecture series. One of her favorite volunteer memories is of the time she and her family brought their chickens to the Nature Fair to share with the children. After hundreds of feather-pets and many escape attempts, there were some mighty tired chickens – but lots of happy kids! She and her family have also enjoyed serving the volunteer lunch at the plant sale the past several years, where they get to meet so many dedicated supporters of the garden. Virginia, a fiction writer, also brought the literary reading series, Lilla Lit, to the Manor House & East Terrace as a way of promoting Leach to a new audience, expanding the cultural arts programing here, and supporting Pacific Northwest writers. Seeing the delight of the writers and audience at being in this beautiful space has always been her favorite part of every reading event. Last year, Virginia joined the staff of Leach Garden Friends to help share the garden with even more folks through weddings and other private celebrations. This year, Virginia is excited to bring her love of the garden together with her career experience in the hospitality industry to her new role as Visitor Services Manager.


About M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, provides grants to organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest—Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington—that seek to strengthen the region’s educational and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways.



David Porter

Executive Director

Leach Garden Friends



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