Ted Zarudny: One of our 2017 Local Heroes
Ted Zarudny has a passion for all the different ways the place we live can blossom.
The Orangeville resident and co-owner with his wife Donna of Dufferin Garden Centre was the man behind the town’s getting involved in the popular Communities in Bloom competition four years ago.
Communities in Bloom is a national nonprofit organization that encourages communities to foster civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification by enhancing their local green spaces. Modelled after Britain in Bloom in the United Kingdom, the Canadian organization began in Montreal and Stratford 23 years ago. It has since grown to include up to 1,500 communities across Canada in any given year.
“Everybody thinks it’s all about flowers,” says Ted, “but that couldn’t be further from the truth.” In fact, communities are judged on seven different criteria, of which floral is only one. Community participation is the biggest component.
Entering in the 25,000 to 50,000 population category, Orangeville has rapidly risen to prominence. In only three years the town has moved through the provincial ranks, competing most recently at the more demanding national level and earning a five-bloom bronze rating. In addition, Orangeville won a special award for the best community of gardeners and drew positive comments from the judges about the public and private partnerships the town has developed to enhance both its landscaped and natural spaces.
Ted calls the results amazing, but he isn’t content to rest on his laurels: “The ultimate goal is to win at the national level, and then go international.”
For the past decade Ted has also been a national and international judge for Communities in Bloom, focusing on smaller centres. In that role he has travelled across Canada and to far-flung places such as Colorado, England, Ireland and the Czech Republic. “I’ve seen some beautiful places, and met some wonderful people. People take such pride in their towns,” he says. “Communities in Bloom is about trying to get everyone to join in and make a family out of the community.”
In addition to his national responsibilities, Ted chairs the local committee, which has about ten members, though he notes roughly half don’t actually live in Orangeville. All together, members volunteered about 1,800 hours last year. Recently the group was made a committee of Orangeville council, so they now get some assistance from town staff. Including his wider judging duties, Ted estimates he personally spends about two full months a year on the initiative.
Asked what inspires such commitment, a wistful look crosses his face. “Years ago, when I was a single parent, I couldn’t afford to pay for my son to play hockey. My landlord paid for it instead. So this is my turn to give back.
“A lot of us are privileged. Why shouldn’t we try to make things a little better?”