Rory Clark spruces up the Cedar Street area with his flowers just outside the Salvation Army Lighthouse Centre

Green thumb keeps on giving back to his community

The expression ‘pay it forward’ has perhaps never meant more to one person than it does to Rory Clark

The expression ‘pay it forward’ has perhaps never meant more to one person than it does to Rory Clark.

The former logger worked in the industry for 35 years before suffering a back injury on the job after falling while hauling a 90-pound block on his back. Clark wound up addicted to painkillers – the start of his downward spiral.

Last year, the Mirror caught up with Clark after he had kicked his addiction and was giving back to the Salvation Army, which housed and fed him during the dark days.

Clark had begun a crusade to clean up the Cedar Street area around the Salvation Army Lighthouse Centre and the Rexall-North Island Pharmacy beside JJ’s Pub. Clark was pulling weeds, shaping shrubs and planting flowers at his own expense.

Fast forward one year later, and Clark is back at it.

He says he comes by every day to weed out the flower beds and plant and water colourful daffodils and geraniums.

It’s all part of the healing process.

“I was staying at the shelter so it’s part of giving back,” Clark says. “It gives me peace of mind and takes your mind off your problems.”

He also finds gardening therapeutic and appreciates when people take notice of his work.

“Everybody walks by and says it looks really good and clean around here now,” Clark says.

Some of have been so impressed, that they’ve hired him to work in their yards – his only source of income.

Clark just finished a five-day job at the home of a woman who works at the Salvation Army shelter.

“I ripped one garden apart and re-did it all – I took everything out of it,” Clark says. “There was a rosebush all matted in there and growing really thick so I took that out, trimmed it, and re-planted it.”

He also limbed a seven-foot tree so the woman could see out her window.

Clark has also cut and raked the lawns of several others within the last year; he finds his customers through word of mouth and referrals.

Clark charges $12 an hour for his yard work and landscaping services and is hoping for more work. He also has a long-term plan to get back into logging, now that he’s clean and living in his own apartment.

But for now, he’ll keep at his work on Cedar Street. He’s expecting a big donation of dirt which will help clean up one of the large garden beds outside Rexall.

Clark also wants to add to a memorial garden he created in honour of his friend, Brian Smith, who died about a year ago and was a friend to him for 20 years. A plague, in tribute to Smith, hangs on the siding of the Lighthouse Centre and Clark planted a shrub in the dirt below.

“I just want everybody to remember him,” Clark says. “That’s the start of a memorial, other people can put up plaques there too.”

Clark says he hopes his efforts will brighten up a gloomy part of the city that helped him to see the light.