March 15, 2020
Mentors lead through selfless contribution
Margaret Stinson
tony digiovanniIf you look closely, the world is full of mentors. As I look toward the next stage of life, I find myself looking at others older than me. What are they up to? Where do they get their energy and inspiration from? How are they making the world a better place?

The first of these is Margaret Stinson. Margaret and her late husband Ivan, adopted Landscape Ontario after we met at a Communities in Bloom event in Nova Scotia. Margaret is not a horticulturist (I think she is a retired school teacher), but she is passionate about people and the community she lives in. She has volunteered at many events for decades and she is not even from the profession.

The other day, I looked out my office window to see Margaret (aided by daughter Lisa) struggling to navigate her walker through the snow to enter our building. I quickly went out to greet and hug one of my favourite people. Margaret was attending a meeting of the Green Cities Foundation, of which she recently accepted a position on its board. It is very inspiring to see her still accepting volunteer positions even in her late 80s.

Later that day, I gave Paul Zammit a tour of our new building. As we entered the CNLA offices, we noticed Margaret in the board room. Margaret had never met Paul before, but within two minutes it seemed like they were special friends. It does not take long for Margaret to warm up a room.

The next day, I received a wonderful email from Margaret titled, “Sunshine.” It talked about how the previous day had many aspects of “Sunshine.” It was “sunshine” to be greeted by LO’s living wall, and by a hug. It was “sunshine” to be involved with all the positive relationships within LO and CNLA. Margaret is always quick to send uplifting and inspiring emails.

Margaret is focused on making positive changes for individuals. It’s about people, not things. It’s about positive relationships and encouraging words. It is about caring. It is about the little things.

Margaret is an inspirational role model with an unlimited amount of positive energy to spread around. Our organization has been enriched by her example of selfless contribution. I have been enriched by her example as well.
two menKen Jewett and Michael de Pencier.
Another of my favourite mentors is Ken Jewett. Ken is also special. In his mid-60s Ken started Maple Leaves Forever (MLF). The purpose of this remarkable organization is to encourage the planting of native maples. When Ken realized native maples were disappearing from the landscape, he did something about it.

In a very short time, MLF has been very effective at reminding us that the maple leaf is an important symbol of our national pride and identity. MLF has developed a network of growers to ensure native maples are propagated and readily available. The Foundation is working to persuade all levels of government to specify native maples more often in their plantings. The Foundation also provides a subsidy to those who plant native maples.

Ken’s actions will provide a legacy of benefit for generations. He is the grandfather of the Native maple. He is a great mentor.

Michael de Pencier has a storied entrepreneurial background. He is former publisher of Toronto Life magazine and founder of the Green Living Show. His business accomplishments would fill volumes. I met Michael through Mark Cullen. We serve as fellow board members to the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute campaign.

Michael is a remarkable individual. He never stops thinking about ways to make the world a little greener. He is driven by a need to protect and enhance the environment. He is always floating ideas and comes to meetings with folders full of articles.

Even as he was making enormous contributions to the Highway of Heroes project — negotiating millions of dollars worth of free media, he was already on to another great project called Grand Trees Climate Change Solutions. With Michael’s inspiration, Grand Trees has already raised more than $700,000 to support tree planting efforts in the GTA. See
Even in his mid-80s, Michael is a very energizing force for positive change.

I have learned many things from these three mentors. Retirement and age are just words. Everyone, at any age, can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Mentors voluntarily take action, make positive choices and take-on tasks, issues and causes even though they don’t have to. They are focused on others, not themselves. They have a desire to help people they don’t even know. They have what appears to be an unlimited amount of positive energy. They care and they contribute. They take aim, set goals for themselves and then work to achieve those goals. They are collaborative and generous. They have empathy.

These wonderful individuals have taught me that we are more than our businesses and organizations. Our organizations exist to be a conduit for caring and positive change. They exist to leave a positive legacy.
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director