November 18, 2020
Shelley Brillinger Garden Makeover

"Our Community wrapped its arms around us"

Shelley Brillinger donates $5,000 garden makeover awarded by Landscape Ontario to Participation House Markham

Landscape Ontario received over a thousand stories of friends, neighbours and family members who have helped to improve the lives of those in their community throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, we are excited to announce the 10 amazing frontline heroes who will receive the garden makeovers! Read the incredible stories of dedication, selflessness and compassion at and stay tuned to Landscape Ontario this fall and into spring 2021 to see the finished garden makeovers!

Meet all 10 frontline heroes
“When a community comes together, it can overcome anything,” Shelley Brillinger said.
In an interview with Landscape Ontario, Brillinger, the Executive Director of Participation House in Markham, Ontario, reflected on the tragic COVID-19 outbreak that occurred at the home for adults with developmental and physical disabilities early this year. “In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined a year like this,” Brillinger said. 
Brillinger added, “Despite the challenges faced and dear loved ones lost, we felt the community wrap its arms around us. We endured because of the incredible support of our community and those that stepped forward to do what needed to be done. It’s heartwarming and powerful stuff.” Now, Brillinger says, “we remain focused on recovery, healing and are determined to bring back whatever “normalcy” they can to the residents lives.
“The residents are why we’re there,” Brillinger said. “Everything we do is for them, and to improve their quality of life. So what you see now are daily efforts to bring back the music, to bring back the fun activities, to bring back the laughter that has always been part of PH.”
Outside of work, Brillinger says the pandemic has had a monumental impact on her whole family. Her husband, Matt Brillinger, works on the frontline as a Respiratory Therapist at Scarborough Grace Hospital. They live in Mount Albert, Ont., with their two daughters.

"It is amazing what our girls have learned this year,” Brillinger said. “They know the people that Mommy helps look after, and they know them by name. It’s pretty amazing, while I feel guilty that I’ve not been home as much with my kids this year because of the pandemic, they will say 
“Mom, we understand you need to keep helping everyone at PH”. We’ve taught them what it means to step up when you need to, to help other people. And that is a really valuable thing, and they get that. That’s been a saving grace. They have seen that it’s important to help people when they need us, so it has been a really powerful year in a lot of ways.”
Brillinger, who is trained as a Registered Nurse, says she just followed her gut instincts to get through the year. 

“I think we’ve seen it with so many frontline workers across our province and our country,” she explained. “You just do what you need to do. There is just something in you that leads you to do the right thing.”

Now, Brillinger and her husband have made the generous decision to pay forward the garden makeover gift to Participation House, Markham.
“The residents and staff of PHM have been through so much this year and this would be something positive for them to look forward to next spring,” Brillinger said. “Our residents spend many hours in our courtyard and beautifying the space would benefit everyone greatly. We have many empty gardens and a courtyard that could use some TLC.”