Company Reuses Flowers To Brighten Patients’ Day
by MARY PETIET
Suzanne Carter says she has a philosophy for living: “Be the miracle in the life for others.”
The fifth-generation Provincetown native is true to her words.
In March, Ms. Carter launched a nonprofit company that collects day-old flowers from markets, weddings, and church services, arranges them into bouquets, and delivers them to people in nursing homes, hospice facilities, and hospitals across the Cape.
Many of the volunteers who do the delivering are from Community Connection and Cape Abilites, organizations that provide work and volunteer opportunities for people with disabilities.
“It really brightens the day and makes me feel better,” Bourne Manor resident Christine Gardner said after she received her flowers. “More importantly, I was happy the Flower Angels work with Cape Abilities, as my own son has special needs.”
“We are being the miracle,” Ms. Carter said. “We are bringing sunshine to the residents and we are the miracle for the ‘differently-abled,’ who are learning skills while giving back to the community.”
Ms. Carter has worked as both a successful businesswoman and a registered nurse. She explained that she got the idea for Flower Angels during her daily visits to her mother in a nursing home, where she noticed that many people never had company. She began to bring them presents, such as small Dixie Cups filled with candy from BJ’s. She would push her mother along in her wheelchair and together they would distribute the gifts.
The idea of delivering flowers in the same spirit came during a visit to Florida, Ms. Carter said.
“I volunteered with my friend, Karen, for a wonderful group that was taking flowers that would otherwise be thrown away, remaking them into beautiful bouquets, and delivering them to patients in hospitals. I saw how a visit from someone delivering a bouquet could make such a difference,” she said.
“I was happily retired,” she said, “but sometimes the next chapter finds you. That’s how Flower Angels was born.”
When her mother died, Ms. Carter used her inheritance to launch Flower Angels.
“When we first went in with bouquets,” Ms. Carter remembered, “people said there must be some mistake, I never get any flowers.” So she made cards explaining the Flower Angels. “First they are shocked and then they are really happy,” she said, “They love that this kindness is done for them.”
Flower Angels gets its flowers as donations from Trader Joe’s and Shaw’s.
At the beginning Ms. Carter explained that she bought the flowers from Trader Joe’s, but as they realized her mission, they began to donate day-old flowers. Shaw’s joined in soon after. An additional source of flowers is brides who pass along their blossoms after their big days.
Ms. Carter explained her use of volunteers from Community Connection and Cape Abilities, saying, “I wanted to connect the ‘differently-abled’ community to the elderly community.”
She describes the structure as providing “flowers for the elderly, while teaching skills to the disabled. Having the differently-abled serve the elderly is a marriage made in heaven. It helps everybody and everybody loves it.”
She never thought the initiative would become as popular as it has.
The first Flower Angels delivery went out in March 2014, and deliveries, which Ms. Carter started to count in mid-May, are well beyond the 5,000 mark.
“The idea has caught on,” she said, “I have a list of people who want to start their own Flower Angels.”
She has trademarked and copyrighted the name Flower Angels USA and is currently working on streamlining the concept through the development of an operational manual that will enable the nonprofit charity to reach out to other communities.
“The Oxford, Massachusetts, high school will open a Flower Angels for their special needs students at the end of January,” she said. “They will learn to collect, arrange and deliver flowers. They’ll learn skills while making people happy.”
Ms. Carter said people from places as far away as Virginia and Hawaii have come to learn how she does her work.
Flower Angels elicit a powerful response when they deliver their gifts. Testimony from a recent recipient posted on the Flower Angels Facebook site says, “A note to thank you very much for the flowers you brought to my husband’s room last week at Eagle Pond. Fortunately, I was there at the time. I know the flowers are to brighten the day of the patient (which they certainly did) but they also brightened my day as well. The flowers will fade but the thoughts and feeling of compassion and kindness they represent never will. In between all of the dismal TV and radio news, when I need to smile, I remember the flowers and all of you wonderful people who do this. You are, indeed, all Angels!”