Leaside’s silent gardener is on the trowel

Picture of Donn in gardens at Leaside Memorial Community Centre
Donna LePan tends to the gardens at Leaside Memorial Community Centre

Donna LePan is the kind of person who is quick to lend a helping hand – or should I say trowel.

An avid gardener, the septuagenarian retired school teacher who has lived in Leaside since 1974 had been noticing for a while that the gardens behind the Leaside Community Centre were deteriorating and becoming badly overrun with weeds.

Last year, a group of volunteers from the centre’s aqua-fit program took it upon themselves to do some pro bono weeding and tending to the space. Apparently the centre was understaffed and couldn’t take care of the garden, which consists of some 8,000 plants which were installed in 2013 on the arena and pool grounds around the parking lot and along Millwood Road.

This past summer LePan noticed that the garden was deteriorating again and decided to pick up her trowel and do something about it. In the process of her work she found a patch of weeds on the sidewalk, removed them and found a sink hole which she promptly reported to the city.

“I think how public spaces are maintained sends out a message to people about the community,” says LePan. “Leaside is a beautiful area, but I’m surprised how many properties are not well maintained on the outside. People seem to want to put everything into the inside but often overlook the exterior.”

LePan, who loves to attend the opera and theatre, and enjoys travel, went digging into the garden once or twice a week this summer with her trowel and garbage bags for weeding and cleaning. She sees this as an ongoing project she can do to help the community and maintain the image of her beloved Leaside.

“How you care for a place is an indication of what you think about it,” she says. “I like to garden anyway, and if I can help the image of the community at the same time, great. I guess you could say I’m a silent gardener.”