Turning Over a New Leaf

I started with LEAF back in 2008 as a volunteer. I can remember sitting down with Janet in the Bathurst Street office – an old converted warehouse filled with filing cabinets, old desks, pieces of wood and a modest team. There was Liza, the Volunteer Coordinator who was cool and organized. Todd with his great sense of humour and a personality that just made you want to be around him and learn as much as you could. They invited me out on a subzero night to attend their annual fundraiser and in the brightly lit Gladstone ballroom, I found a group that seemed to all be on the same page.

In the weeks following, I offered my advice, as a student, on their website and printed materials – on their tools for outreach and how they might better engage a wider audience. I never dreamed that a year later I would be working alongside Janet and her crew of amazing staff and volunteers. Now looking back it’s been four and a half years and I can honestly say I didn’t have a clue we would take it this far.


After working on the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery’s Power Ball, I was asked to help with the next LEAF fundraiser. I was honoured, but I had a lot to learn about trees and the people who loved and cared for them. In a short time, the programs had grown, the office had moved to the newly opened Wychwood Barns and many of the faces had changed. But at its heart, the mission remained the same. I met Vince Pietropaolo and through the Toronto’s Favourite Trees Project, I interviewed some of Toronto’s finest (imagine trying to interview Matt Galloway!). I was green in all the wrong ways, but I managed to grow, learn and help LEAF thrive. With some of the best mentors I could have asked for and a strong group of irreplaceable friends, I have matured alongside the four-leafed logo and all that it stands for.


Toronto's Favourite Trees Project


When I stayed on to assist in the development of the Marketing & Communications department, I remember digging up those old notes and coming across an email I had sent to Janet back when I was volunteering. The irony of now being the one to make these changes happen was not lost on me. But it became so much more than just buzz words, a new website and some pretty pictures. I looked for the substance of our stories and the characters to tell them.


Starting a blog was a huge step: I’m amazed at how well it has done and how we always seem to find the right stories. It was a shot in the dark – a lot of what I brought to the organization was. But they were shots that hit.  We have connected with so many through taking the bold chances that I pushed for – chances that were inspired by bigger organizations and larger budgets. Somehow we made it work.  It is now a lot clearer just who we are – as an organization, as a team and as a group of talented individuals who have come together to improve our cities and the forests within them.


Fall Forest


I am sad to bid farewell to LEAF and to all of you, but as I look ahead to a bright future with the MS Society of Canada, I know it’s the right move to for me to make. Leading tree tours and hosting talks has definitely been my favourite part of the job. I’ve met so many of you incredible people and followed along with your stories – some of them came to appear right here on the blog - and I know that there will be countless more to come. But the time has come for me to leave the door open for a new voice at LEAF, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.


Matthew Higginson was the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at LEAF for many years and will always be part of the LEAF family!