September 15, 2012
Don Voorhees
Don Voorhees
At Congress in 2011, Landscape Ontario honoured one of its long-time volunteers Don Voorhees with the Alumni Award.

During the presentation, executive director Tony DiGiovanni stated, “Don Voorhees is always there when needed. He has been on the Lawn Care Sector committee forever. He is a fixture during Canada Blooms, helping all the garden builders get the job done and his good nature always brings levity to any circumstance. LO is proud of Don Voorhees.”

Voorhees opened his Durham lawn care franchise in 1977. “At the time, other professional companies who provided lawn and tree care services were becoming more popular. Do-it-yourselfers were beginning to hire outside services to take care of their properties, grabbing the opportunity to free-up weekends in anticipation of more leisure time. As a new businessman in 1977, I felt the need to know more than the average homeowner about horticulture,” said Voorhees.

He remembers at the time that pesticide symposia were held at Queen’s Park. “This is where I first learned of Landscape Ontario. I knew that displaying a membership with a professional association would give credibility and assure potential clients their investment was well placed,” he says. He inquired how to become a member at the Landscape Ontario home office, he remembers being located in Mississauga. He was invited to attend the Toronto Chapter Meeting at the Holliday Inn on Dufferin Street.

“The first night I felt intimidated to be in the presence of these professionals, who seemed very comfortable in the company of their competitors and peers. My fears quickly vanished when before the night was out, I was approached by Monica van Maris and asked to serve on the lawn care committee,” remembers Voorhees. He welcomed the opportunity, not realizing at the time all the benefits of being a volunteer.

Says Voorhees, “The saying, ‘If you want to be a professional, associate with professional people,’ became clear to me when these pioneers of the industry did not hesitate to encourage and freely share time and information with me as a newbie.” He says that this attitude has not changed over the years. “The trade magazines often highlight members who continually contribute their talents to our association. Many men and women entrepreneurs have become proud professionals and continually contribute to our horticulture industry.”

The alumni member reflects that the reason he became a member of LO has changed through the years. “Little did I know at the time that serving on a committee would mean rubbing shoulders with people who are passionate about their chosen trade and who are tireless in their endeavour to produce a better product, and  proud to share hard-earned trade secrets that have yet to be written in text books.”

Don Voorhees chuckles when relating his addiction to volunteering at Canada Blooms. He says when he first became involved at Canada Blooms, he saw expressions on hundreds of winter-weary faces change to anticipation when the fragrance of spring flowers greeted them as they entered the show. He later had the opportunity to help with the main set-up with Barry Benjamin and then Charlie Dobbin, with their amazing volunteer teams providing trees, shrubs and exotic plant material to exhibitors.

“I saw firsthand how members worked so seamlessly together on their own projects and would never hesitate to help when other show exhibitors required assistance. What other industry has such a diverse group of people that can come together and be of one accord?” asks Voorhees.

The other big attraction for Voorhees of volunteering at Canada Blooms is the chance to meet and make friends from all levels of horticulture. “From the Toronto Garden Club, the trade schools, growers, maintenance crews, landscapers, arborists, nurseries, manufacturers of garden supplies and equipment, suppliers and so many others associated in the industry, they are all there.”  

Although now semi-retired, Voorhees still sits on the Lawn Care Sector Group committee. “I look forward to the meetings held at the LO office in Milton. When you walk through the front door at LO to reception, you have a change of attitude. You are immediately aware that Landscape Ontario staff members are enthusiastic and eager to make you feel welcome. You may walk in with a weight on your shoulders, but you will leave feeling refreshed and a little reluctant to leave.”  

He says it’s great to see LO members becoming more involved with community projects. He would like to see members provide advice or assist at senior facilities to create small gardens. Many seniors have had to give up their lifelong love of gardening at home. A small patch of soil may make the difference when the time comes for the transition from independence to an unfamiliar new life.”

Since joining LO in the 1970s, Don Voorhees has seen many changes in the association. “Each time I pick up the trades magazines, I am Impressed at the diversification and growth of the industry.”

Of course, Don Voorhees has been responsible for many of those changes, and continues to give back to improve his association and his industry.