Cornerstones of our Communities

Stop and smell the roses during this year’s Lakeside Gardens of Cobourg Garden Tour…and think about the cause it supports.

Irene* has a crystal clear memory of the moment. She remembers her husband – his face inches from her – whispering words of intimidation. She instinctively sensed danger. That moment triggered a response that was probably the most critical in her life. She knew that she had to get out of her home to safety. The man she’d loved, the man who’d fathered her children, had turned into a violent abuser who was determined to keep her prisoner in her own home. But through sheer determination, she escaped to Cornerstone, a women’s shelter in Cobourg. They offered a roof over her head, a safe haven where she could start a new life. In many ways, it literally became the cornerstone of the new foundation that she would build for herself and her children.

But like so many of our community’s social safety nets, Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre struggles to keep up with the demands on its services. In dollars and cents, it costs $125 a night to house a family. Resources are strained and Cornerstone has to look beyond government funding so they can deliver the care that people like Irene and her family so desperately need. That’s why the Lakeside Gardens tour is such a godsend.

Jane Frost learned about Cornerstone last year at its annual luncheon. “Right there and then, I knew that I just had to do something to help.”

A dedicated volunteer, Jane was no stranger to charitable garden tours. For many years she’s been at the helm of a local tour committee. That tour had pretty well run its course, but at the Cornerstone luncheon, it dawned on Jane that the time might be right to resurrect it. And with that, she reconvened a familiar team of volunteers and they were back in the garden tour business – auditioning gardens, working with their owners, printing the guidebook, writing press releases and developing advertising campaigns. They were a committee united by their mutual affection for gardening and their resolve to help the community.

The result of all their efforts will be showcased in a fascinating tour that features nine private gardens, all linked by a common theme: each one is situated along the Lake Ontario shore. According to Jane, while the gardens are blessed by the moderating effects of the lake, they are also subject to the force of the wind. “Not much phlox or delphinium here,” Jane says, thinking of tall perennials that topple over in the breeze. The gardens are also threatened by the rising water levels on Lake Ontario so there’s a definite strategy to gardening by the lake.

The Lakeside Gardens of Cobourg tour committee is determined to raise $15,000 for Cornerstone. When the books are balanced, the funding will translate into 80 nights for women like Irene and her family. And according to Carly Cunningham, Manager of Communications & Donor Relations at Cornerstone, “A night spent in safety creates an opportunity for hope to grow.” On one hand, it provides a safe home-away-from-home feeling and on the other hand, it supports women and families as they plan their next steps by providing counselling, family court support workers, family support workers and residential counsellors. And many of those services rely on the funding that comes from the efforts of volunteers like those who are spearheading this year’s garden tour.

Their efforts, indeed the efforts of all volunteers throughout Watershed country, those who work tirelessly behind the scenes and who are the unsung heroes of our communities, help to strengthen budgets and enhance programs. Let’s put our support behind them.


Garden Tour committees and the homeowners who open their private gardens to the public deserve a round of applause for their dedication to their communities and for their support of so many worthy causes.

Saturday, June 27
The Prince Edward County Garden Tour
Prince Edward County Horticultural Society. A portion of the proceeds will go to a local charity (to be decided later in the year).

Sunday, June 28
Lakeside Gardens of Cobourg Garden Tour
Proceeds support Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre.

Saturday, July 4
21st Annual Town & Country Garden Tour Belleville & District Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW). Proceeds to the CFUW Belleville & District Scholarship Trust Fund in support of deserving graduates of Hastings and Prince Edward District secondary schools as they continue in post-secondary education.

Saturday, July 18
17th Annual Garden Tour
Campbellford & District Horticultural Society. Proceeds support an annual scholarship awarded to a graduating student from Campbellford & District High School’s Environmental Group, who is furthering their education in a horticultural field.

*Not her real name

Story by:
Tom Cruickshank

[Spring 2020 features]