This week’s community spotlight is on Rosmarie Lohnes, the CEO and President of Helping Nature Heal – an entrepreneur, an environmentalist and an amazing human being, with boundless energy and a giving spirit!
On May 3, Helping Nature Heal will celebrate its 20th anniversary! This $1 Million landscape company, that started as an idea…a dream in 2001 has grown to become a thriving business that will hire a dozen employees this year. In simple terms Helping Nature Heal is a landscaping company, but there’s a lot more to its story. Rosmarie Lohnes, who is its CEO and President, together with her team, focus on ecological restoration, which is all about repairing sites in nature that have been degraded or destroyed. Helping Nature Heal is a leader in the Living Shoreline management approach that uses living plants and natural methods to protect coastlines from erosion. This innovative approach also improves the health of our coastlines by helping to stabilize coastal ecosystems and creating habitat for a variety of wildlife and plant species.
Rosmarie is a passionate environmentalist who strives to connect people with nature. “We work in a way to not cause harm to the environment. Whether we’re building a raised vegetable garden or working on a shoreline erosion management project, we do it with the least amount of impact on the environment as possible. We do the work by hand and with care and attention.” Where did this drive and passion come from? Rosmarie was brought up in Val Caron, Ontario a mining community. As a young child, she loved to play outdoors and in nature, but by age 6 she experienced, first hand the degradation that can result from clear cutting and open pit smelting. “Acid rain negatively affected the local lakes and the fish and my childhood bliss was rocked by the destruction of the wilderness that had surrounded my neighbourhood. I became an environmentalist at that early age”, says Rosmarie.
Rosmarie is also an educator and a mentor to many. She shares her knowledge generously. She speaks at international conferences and lectures locally at the NSCC Natural Resources and Environment and Technology class. She offers educational workshops and takes elementary school classes on excursions, where they can experience her shoreline projects. “I try to be in as many places as possible to impact youth and help them see a beautiful future in front of them,” says Rosmarie. She even provides “first job” experiences and nurtures students through the SSWAP program which provides training opportunities to folks who may not thrive in a traditional career or work environment.
Helping Nature Heal gives back to our community in so many ways. Among other things it sponsors a local men’s 35 plus softball team and donated $5,000 each year over the past five years to support a Coordinator position for the Bridgewater Community Gardens, a Town of Bridgewater program that provides a special place to grow food. Rosmarie and her employees also provide in-kind service and supplies annually to help maintain the program’s Bees Need’s Pollinator Garden; the Hodge Podge Garden and the Foodscapes Project, which provides shrubs and trees with healthy fruits, nuts and berries throughout the town. Annually, Helping Nature Heal hosts the popular Seedy Saturday, an event where people can purchase seeds and gardening supplies for the upcoming growing season. This year’s event is scheduled for this Saturday, February 20, 2021, 10 am- 3 pm at the DesBrisay Museum. Donations to the Interchurch Food Bank are encouraged.
Rosmarie’s philanthropy has extended way beyond her local community. Her heart has been touched by poverty stricken Jamaican communities, Coopers Pen and Daniel Town, that have been hit hard by COVID. “People are hungry”, says Rosmarie. These communities, surrounded by upscale resorts have no food bank or community school and Coopers Pen has no recreation facilities. Teenage pregnancy is high… where children are literally having children”, adds Rosmarie. She has adopted these communities and taken them “under her wing.” She sponsors a U17 boys’ and a U-16 girls’ soccer team in Coopers Pen and a U20 men’s’ team in nearby Daniel Town. She is trying to “keep them busy and out of trouble.” She also financed an Internet Café in 2020 and is cost-sharing tuition for a young woman who is working towards her medical degree. Rosmarie has another dream…to create a food bank and a community garden in both Coopers Pen and Daniel Town, to help them grow their own healthy food locally and increase food security. She has helped women create planters, but wants to do more to help provide people with healthy, sustainable food and increase their food choices. Rosmarie encourages anyone who would like to help her make these projects become a reality to reach out to her. Those interested can check out the Go Fund Me Page she has set up at Fundraiser by Rosmarie Lohnes : Cooper’s Pen Community Garden and Food Bank (gofundme.com). Her goal is to raise $25,000.
Rosmarie gives a huge shout out to her team. “Because we are labour based business, we need to stay in super physical condition and it takes emotional toughness too. Staff have to show up on time fully prepared to move a wheelbarrow shovel, climb shorelines.”
During the upcoming Spring and Summer be sure to visit Helping Nature Heal’s Nature’s Store, situated at 671 LaHave Street, Bridgewater, where you can find native plants as well as potted ferns, grasses, perennials, shrubs and more. To reach Helping Nature Heal year-round call (902) 543-7416 or email the office@helpingnatureheal.