The Hofland effect: love, change and lasting impact

When you grow up in the family business, you learn to work hard. To love what you do. And – if you’re Glenn Hofland – to give back for all you were blessed with. Glenn is president of John G. Hofland Ltd., a company supplying some 5,000 stores across Canada with wholesale flowers, plants and décor.

But the company’s impact only begins in our country. That impact is global and promises to last for generations. That’s because Glenn and his colleagues are changing lives for children around the world, through a partnership with World Vision Canada.

In the Philippines alone, “Hofland” (as the company is affectionately known) is helping fishermen increase their income so they and their children can thrive. And, thanks to its sponsorship-matching program for their staff, girls and boys on several continents are growing up nourished, educated and empowered.        

“We have always felt that our company is a blessing we have received,” says Glenn. “Our parents taught us that when we are blessed, we give back – whether in our own community or around the world.”

In this article, you’ll learn how Hofland is “giving back” globally – especially in the Philippines – and what a difference that’s making. You’ll discover how straightforward yet deeply fulfilling it can be, for a business to partner with World Vision. And we’ll tell you how Canadian companies can get started.
  1. What is the story of Hofland flowers?
  2. How did Glenn Hofland choose World Vision as a partner?
  3. What impact is Hofland making, through World Vision Canada?
  4. How does Glenn involve his staff in the partnership?
  5. Why is it important for Canadian corporations to give back?
  6. How can my company partner with World Vision?

1. What is the story of Hofland flowers?
In 1956 John G. Hofland, a young entrepreneur from Holland, and his wife Hendrika began a small greenhouse operation in Mississauga, Ontario.

They began providing beautiful wholesale flowers to the Toronto market. Over the decades, the company has expanded and diversified, increasing its product line to include ceramics and giftware.

Black-and-white image of a man packaging flowers for delivery.
John G. Hofland in the early days, hard at work. From the beginning, he taught his children to ‘give back’ for all they were blessed with. Photo: John G. Hofland Ltd.

Today’s president is Glenn Hofland, sixth of John and Hendrika’s seven children. Glenn can trace his life’s journey through the business. By kindergarten, he was rolling up his sleeves to spread protective cloths over the plants in the greenhouse. By age six he had his first paying job, earning a penny a piece folding sleeves for plants.
Childhood learnings grew into first-hand knowledge about the difference flowers can make – especially on important occasions.

“I went into the cooler and picked 25 red roses to give to my girlfriend,” Hofland remembers. “That girlfriend is now my wife. We’ve been married for 32 years and have three grown children,” he smiles.

John G. Hofland retired the day he turned 60 (just as he always said he would). His four sons picked up the reigns. Eldest brother Frank played a key role in bringing in pottery and glassware from Europe, to help florists in Canada develop unique and beautiful arrangements.

A woman prepares a long table for a meal, outdoors. The table is decorated with pink roses.
One of the many images on the Hofland website, of florists’ work incorporating flowers and décor from the company. Photo: David Austin Roses

“We are always looking at how to help our customers (florists) grow their business,” says today’s president, Glenn, who assumed the role in 2000. “We want to help them be unique, continually expanding what they’re able to offer.”

Hofland is not open to the public, focusing on the needs of licensed businesses. They pride themselves on supplying everything a florist might need, all in one location – from flowers and trend-setting giftware to basics such as plant food.

Businesses can stock everything they need by visiting the warehouse or ordering online. Hofland’s staff is comprised of 120 people who pride themselves on working together as a close team, to meet clients’ needs.

2.How did Glenn Hofland choose World Vision Canada as a partner?
It began in 2005, when Glenn received an invitation from the long-serving mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion. She was preparing to travel to Tanzania with World Vision Canada as part of her ‘Hazel’s Hope’ campaign.
The mayor invited a few Mississauga business owners to join her – and Glenn Hofland was among them.

A group of children in Tanzania smile toward the camera.
Children in Tanzania greet visitors in 2005, when Glenn Hofland and other Mississauga business owners travelled to see World Vision programs. They went with Hazel McCallion, then-mayor of Mississauga. Every child in this picture lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS. Photo: Mkawa Mwijarubi
The experience in Tanzania moved Glenn immensely. “Just to sit with a family, hear their story, know they may not eat today … it changes you,” Glenn remembers.
“Then contrasting that with the communities we visited, where World Vision had been working for many years and was preparing to leave. They were clearly self-sufficient.”
World Vision’s goal of helping people reach self-sufficiency is part of what intrigued Glenn. He liked the idea of educating, equipping and empowering – rather than a simple hand-out.  
“I have always believed in ‘teaching a person to fish, rather than giving them the fish,” he says. “World Vision most certainly does that.”
Also, Glenn was impressed with World Vision’s approach to hiring staff, building strong, local teams from within the regions where the programs were happening.

A woman wearing a safety mask and an orange and white vest helps a little girl hold a chicken.
World Vision aims to hire locally whenever possible – in the countries where children live. These team members bring insight, sensitivities and cultural insight that help build trust with communities right from the start. Photo: Dara Chhim

These gifted team members excel in their work and bring a deep commitment to improving lives for children in their countries. Trust builds quickly, laying the foundation for strong partnerships.

3.What kind of projects is Hofland supporting, through World Vision Canada?
Hofland is impacting lives and futures in two ways. The first is through the company’s sponsorship-matching program for staff (more on that shortly). The second is through additional development projects in Sorsogon, the Philippines, through annual gifts.

A group of adults and children stand on and near a fishing boat on a beach in the Philippines.
Donors like Hofland have helped equip Filipino fishers with boats, to save them the costs of renting through intermediaries. Fishers’ income increases, providing income to nourish and educate their children. Photo: World Vision Philippines

Increasing fishing income
  • Donors like Hofland provided a large fishing boat for the community and five smaller boats for individual families to help parents increase their fishing income, eliminate expensive boat rental fees to intermediaries and become competitive in the local market.
  • Children’s parents used that income to provide nourishment and education for their kids, building health, strength and knowledge for brighter futures.
A row of small boats lines a beach in the Philippines. A man stands beside them.
Fishing is Sorsogon’s primary source of income. But many boat owners and intermediaries were profiting while the families of local fishermen lived in poverty. With the help of donors like Hofland, the boats World Vision provided are helping families thrive. Photo: World Vision Philippines

Creating aquaculture livelihoods
  • World Vision helped the community building an aquaculture project, a pond that was then stocked with 2,500 fingerlings and 30,000 prawns for food and income.
  • Local teams quickly worked to rebuild pond infrastructure after Typhoon Kammuri pummeled the Philippines a few months later.
  • Donors helped fund extensive livelihood training on agri-fishery production to women in particular, so they can contribute to family income.
Improving nutrition, medical care and gender equality
  • Donors like Hofland have helped provide access to regular medical checkups and necessary medication for girls and boys with special health needs and disabilities.
  • They’ve helped restore the health of many of the area’s most vulnerable and undernourished children. Parents and caregivers have received training in areas such as urban gardening and poultry rearing, improving nutrition.
  • Through World Vison, partners have helped empower wives and mothers to involve themselves in making family economic decisions, through programs promoting gender equality, as well as in livelihood training sessions.
‘Responsible parenthood’ training sessions have highlighted the importance of both parents in taking active roles in loving, caring for and disciplining their children.

A group of smiling women stands behind tables with bottles of water and of soap.
Throughout the Philippines, World Vision provides guidance and support to groups starting small businesses. Photo: Lanelyn Carillo
Preparation and protection during COVID
Glenn Hofland and donors like him have supported some of the most vulnerable children and families in Sorsogon. When the Coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, the company’s ongoing partnership made a difference in the following ways:
  • Minimizing the spread of the coronavirus in Sorsogon, while meeting the needs of people whose livelihoods were compromised by the effects of the global pandemic.
  • Distributing fresh vegetables as well as sanitation kits containing face masks, alcohol for sanitization, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
  • Distributing personal protective equipment to frontline health workers meeting the needs of local villages.
These latest achievements represent a ‘pivot’ during COVID-19, to meet families’ urgent needs. But before the pandemic, donations from Hofland and other groups were hard at work, strengthening families and the local economy.
4. How does Glenn involve his staff in the partnership?
The Hofland staff is fortunate to have a president who is hungry to learn what the company’s donations are funding – and how that’s impacting lives. His interest and excitement then draw staff into the story.  Here are two ways Hofland involves employees in the World Vision partnership:

a. Sponsorship matching

For every child that a staff member sponsors through World Vision Canada, Hofland matches by sponsoring another child. The sponsoring staff member has the joy of picking the country, writing to the child and celebrating their progress.  For the matched child sponsored, every staff member can be part of the company-wide initiative – even if finances don’t allow them to sponsor a child themselves.  Hofland picks up the sponsorship costs, but all staff have the opportunity of writing to the child and celebrating their progress by visiting the “Hofland’s Children” bulletin board.

A large bulletin board reading “Hofland’s Children” is covered with picture folders showing children’s faces.
A large board in Hofland’s lunchroom communicates the joy the company feels at being able to help children around the world. On the board are children supported through Hofland’s matching program. Photo: John G. Hofland Ltd.

 b. Single Gifts

Hofland makes annual donations to provide additional support to programs in the Sorsogon community in the Philippines, an initiative Glenn chose from three options presented by World Vision Canada.

He’s emphasized with staff that because the company has been blessed, they are able to give back. And he’s been mindful of staff, in choosing how to do that.

“It’s touched me to be supporting work in the Philippines, as half a dozen of our staff members began their lives there,” he says, “I’m always looking for a connection, something that’s meaningful.”

A large group is photographed from above, smiling toward the camera.
Glenn Hofland (back row, middle, striped shirt) nurtures a strong, close team. Group charity projects are a big part of that strength. Photo: John G. Hofland Ltd.

One of those staff members, who is now retired, was a Filipino gentleman whom Glenn’s father had hired as a newcomer to Canada more than four decades earlier.

“It brought a tear to his eye, hearing that we’d decided to give back to an area that was his heritage, his home,” says Glenn. “He knows many people struggle there.”

Over the years, Hofland staff have shared in the joy of knowing their work is helping make a difference to people in need.

World Vision Canada provides annual report brochures, complete with stories and photos, for staff to read and celebrate. And Glenn has a dedicated advisor at World Vision to answer questions and provide updates.

5. Why is it important for Canadian corporations to give back?
Businesses are uniquely positioned to make a difference believes Glenn Hofland – and it’s their ‘corporate social responsibility’ to do so.

“Businesses are the engines of the economy,” he says. “It’s the workers who power those engines, but it’s the business owners who are driving. They need to make responsible choices for their communities, countries and the world.”
Giving back today – and for tomorrow

Glenn’s heart calls him to help people today, rather than focusing on change that might take decades to happen. As a society, we often wonder how things will be for our grandchildren – and if we’re leaving them the right kind of legacy. But there are people in the world who are starving right now.”

Hofland is doing both, says Edgar Gonzales, a philanthropy advisor with World Vision Canada.

The company’s donations are helping meet immediate needs in Sorsogon through sponsorship. But they’re also supporting children to grow up strong, healthy and educated. Talk about an investment in the future!
Personal proof of impact

Edgar himself is living proof that such support transforms lives. Born in the Philippines, Edgar was sponsored through World Vision as a child. Caring donors partnered with Edgar’s family and community to ensure children were nourished, educated … and empowered. Just as Hofland is doing today.

“Not only did World Vision’s work teach me how to fish, as Glenn likes to say. They taught a little boy without a lot of belief in himself that he could fish. That changed my life forever.”

A little boy in the Philippines sits on the grass and reads a large publication for children.
A boy in the World Vision-supported community in the Philippines recently improved his reading skills through a special literacy club. During the COVID-19 lockdown, he regularly devoured the local newspaper. Photo: Mong Jimenez

6. How can my company partner with World Vision? 
As Hofland demonstrates, corporate partnerships with World Vision Canada create immeasurable benefits for Canadian companies, while helping transform the future for children in need, around the world.

Since 1957, World Vision has been a trusted partner for Canadians. Through such partnerships – including with hundreds of Canadian businesses over the decades – children, families and communities gain the tools, know-how, strength and confidence to create brighter futures. They’re better prepared to meet what comes their way, in 2022 and beyond.  

Interested in learning more? World Vision Canada’s corporate partnerships team is excited to partner with any Canadian company wanting to take the first step. Please visit our corporate partnerships page to begin one of the most fulfilling journeys you’ll ever take!

A painting shows a farmer tending colourful beds of flowers.
Vincent van Gogh’s “Flower Beds in Holland” shows a farmer nurturing beds of flowers which he will then sell, to provide for his family. Hofland’s generosity has helped many parents provide for their own children. Photo: Public Domain