Landscape Company Brings Emerging Hope to Those Dealing with Poverty

Credit: Emerging Hope

Working in outreach at the Avalon Women’s Centre in Kerrisdale and “holding hands with a number of families on the downtown eastside,” Chaplain Thornhill became convinced that simply providing employment would relieve much of the despair she saw. She lamented to Sister Nancy Brown at Vancouver’s Covenant Centre: “If I just had some room I could get these people to work!” “Then, get to work!” responded Sister Brown, who managed to find the space needed. Chaplain Thornhill’s vision resulted in 250 stunning Christmas wreaths sold around the city and a group of people eager to continue working.

The seeds for the Emerging Hope organization and its mandate of “dignity in purpose” had been planted. Thornhill next converted her own double garage into a greenhouse where they began making “Baskets of Hope” – hanging baskets and planters bursting with flowers and creativity. A landscape division, E-Scape Plants and Gardens, also emerged and has since been busy year-round providing design, construction and maintenance services under the leadership of landscape professional Guy Stuyt.

“When people work with plants more than just the plants grow – there is an intrinsic connection with the earth that seems to take away all our problems and concerns so that we get to focus on the beauty and the truth of this thing called life,” smiles Chaplain Thornhill.

Emerging Hope

In August 2003 more angels intervened – one donating 35 tons of chair parts that had Chaplain Thornhill desperate for a building where employees could work with them, and then another, Busters Towing, who provided this very space. Next, the BC Home and Garden Show at BC Place offered free double booths twice a year to display and sell products. Orders flooded in for “Seats of Hope.”

In February of 2004 Busters Towing extended the space to enable Chaplain Thornhill’s group to start a three-day-a-week thrift market. “Hope Village” was a hit, attracting donations and shoppers from around the lower mainland.

Then last year a wrench was thrown into the works when the City of Vancouver was forced to cancel the lease due to a zoning conflict. People who had found employment and a long-forgotten sense of self-worth were suddenly out of work again.

Happily, the story doesn’t end there. Another angel came through, this time in the form of Highland Nurseries in Abbottsford, who offered Chaplain Thornhill’s team the use of 10,000 square feet of heated greenhouse space and even some staff support to keep the plants watered and fertilized. Meanwhile, seeds have been donated by West Coast Seeds, signage provided by True Colours and growing space contributed by Windsor Market. The concept of Smart Gardens has also encouraged people from around the city to start flats of seeds on their balconies and porches and donate garden space.
Because of these “many little angels,” people who had lost hope have found it again.

“They now feel that they’re productive members of society in every way,” says Chaplain Thornhill, “and this positively impacts their quality of relationships with family and community. Finally, they can see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Those interested in supporting Emerging Hope by purchasing products and services can contact Chaplain Melita Thornhill at 604-873-9025 or check out their website at or contact Chaplain Melita Thornhill at 604-873-9025.

As Chaplain Thornhill reminds us, people in need really just want a hand up, not a handout.