Basket with knitting needles and balls of yarn.
From left: Jan Watson, Allan Goddard, Peggy McPhail, Ed Lawrence, Christine Bois, Kat Fournier and Ron Ayling.

It was a frosty morning when these folks agreed to come out bright and early for a photo recently. These are the hard-working “Tree Committee” members who are behind one of Home Hospice North Lanark’s biggest fundraisers. As an organization that relies 100% on donations and fundraising they — and the over 2,200 trees sold to date — have made a big difference to HHNL, and most importantly, our clients and their caregivers.

We feel good about offering something of such beauty and value in exchange for your support. What could be more beautiful than planting trees to honour and support those whose journey through life is coming to an end.

This motivated, independent committee has become a well-oiled machine. They work together to choose the best varieties of trees and shrubs suitable for our zone, ensure the trees and shrubs are stored in a protected spot and properly cared for upon delivery to the storage location, organize and work the pickup day, and report back to the Board when the season is all wrapped up.

Home Hospice North Lanark inherited the tree sale from the town of Almonte in the 2015/2016 season. David Baril was hired to act as coordinator that first year, and Peggy McPhail has capably taken over the reigns since, preparing the order, overseeing. Andrea Bird took care of the website and online shop for years and Al Potvin generously lent his valuable knowledge as he’d been involved when the sale was being run by the town of Almonte.  All three also showed up to take part in the physical work required as well. Over the years, others have pitched in to help with tasks including the watering, bagging and tagging of stock after it is delivered and ensuring that each order is matched up with the correct customer on pickup day. Participants have included Gavin Donnelly, Duncan Bird, Katrina Ayling, Tove Hunding, Angela Ziai, Shirley Potvin, Mike Caughey, Helen McIntosh, Ruth DuBois and Tony O’Neil (apologies if we’ve missed anyone!). It’s wonderful to watch these people simply get to work and get the job done.

For the first few years pickup day was held at the Township Garage just outside Almonte. The fellows there made sure everything was empty and tidy and ready to receive the delivery from our supplier. Then the pandemic hit, and that location couldn’t work anymore. The North Lanark Agricultural Society came through at the last minute and allowed a well-distanced pickup location in 2020. Last year, Reid Gardens in Carleton Place offered not only a great location, but offered a bag of 3 Way Planting Mix and a package of Root Rescue with each tree purchased!

The committee this year consists of long-term members Peggy McPhail, Christine Bois, Jan Watson, HHNL Board Chair and Toni Surko, Board Member and Fundraising Committee Chair, all of whom also show up to haul trees and fill orders. Kat Fournier now ably takes care of the website/online shop, and Wendy Rampton helps with marketing for the group.

In addition to these people is the Committees’ “secret weapon” — the tree experts. We are incredibly fortunate to have Allan Goddard, Ed Lawrence and Ron Ayling to provide guidance on the choices of trees and shrubs that are on offer. To say these men are experts is a gross understatement.

Allan Goddard’s love affair with the natural world started at his grandmother’s cottage in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Since acquiring a number of diplomas and degrees, including a Degree in Natural Science from Lakehead University, he has worked for the City of Westmount’s Parks and Recreation, completed a handful of differing biological contracts in Ontario, two years as a landscape manager in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and designed and maintained countless gardens in the Almonte and Ottawa area for a wide variety of customers and a wide variety of styles.

Ed Lawrence’s voice is familiar to most Canadians, thanks to his long-running CBC spot on “Ontario Today” where he answers listener’s plant-related questions every Monday. For 30 years Ed was Chief Horticultural Specialist to six consecutive Governors General from the 1970s to 2005. In his capacity as head gardener, Ed’s responsibilities included not only the oversight of the 85 acre historic grounds and greenhouses of Rideau Hall, but of all six official residences under the authority of the National Capital Commission, including those of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Ed also writes for numerous publications and has been honoured for his work with an impressive variety of awards.

Dr. Ron Ayling is a graduate of the Faculty of Forestry of the University of Toronto – where he later taught dendrology (the study of trees). He received a PhD in plant physiology from the Australian National University but spent most of his professional life in international development, especially with IDRC (International Development Research Centre) and as a consultant to CIDA. In his retirement years, he is the editor of The Forestry Chronicle, the journal of the Canadian Institute of Forestry, and locally, he is the chair of the Tree Committee for Mississippi Mills.

The Board of HHNL is always humbled by the generosity of people’s support and the validation it offers, because, at the end of the day we want to make a positive difference in the lives of people who can benefit from our services, and that simply couldn’t happen without funds.