Sometimes it can be the simplest of gestures that can mean the most. Such was the case when Larsen Jay found himself on the receiving end of the kindness of others.
In 2007, Jay fell off a roof. While recovering in a hospital from multiple injuries, his room was flooded with flowers from well-wishers, elevating his spirits in ways he never imagined. It wasn’t long before Jay realized that his flower-infused room wasn’t the norm, so he set out to fix this. On an impulse, he took flowers that had been sent to him and began handing them out to his neighbors. This random act of generosity was met with such joy that it quickly “blossomed” into a non-profit.
From here, Random Acts of Flowers was launched. This Knoxville, Tennessee-based non-profit has organized delivery of more than 360,000 bouquets of recycled flowers since its founding in 2008. Today, it also has branches in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Tampa Bay. The Chicago chapter, headquartered in Evanston, is responsible for more than 110,000 deliveries since opening its doors in January 2015, thanks to the nearly 500 volunteers and 50 supplying partners, from florists to funeral homes. They hope to grow their nationwide presence from their four current cities to far more.
One way to help them meet this goal happens on Wednesday, Dec. 12 from 6:30-9 p.m. with their Holiday Centerpiece-Making event, where attendees make a $75 tax-deductible donation to learn flower arranging tricks of the trade. Guests will design, create, and take home a magical holiday centerpiece under the direction of award-winning floral designer Andy Zimmerman of Kiko’s Flowers in Park Ridge. Additional holiday-themed arrangements will be made for local hospital patients. Holiday desserts and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided (and guests may BYOB).
Random Acts of Flowers truly espouses the healing powers of plants. A study conducted in early 2016 by the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine confirmed the positive impact that deliveries from Random Acts of Flowers had on the emotional wellness of medical patients.
- Almost 95 percent of respondents self-reported that the unexpected delivery from Random Acts of Flowers improved their overall emotional wellness, with 73.5 percent reporting “extreme improvement.”
- 81.1 percent of respondents reported they had not received other gifts of flowers outside of the Random Acts of Flowers delivery.
- 11.3 percent of the sample said Random Acts of Flowers volunteers were the only visitors they had during their hospital stay.
For Christina Sayer, Random Acts of Flowers’ national director of marketing, there was something about the straightforwardness of this non-profit that spoke to her.
“I’ve always worked in the non-profit sector,” explains Sayer. “But when I was looking for a new role, I wanted to find a place that was really doing good in the community. Random Acts of Flowers has been that and more.”
Sayer says that their well-oiled flower-arranging machine is somewhat miraculous.
“All the moving parts work together,” she says. “Flowers that would have been thrown away are donated, arranged, and delivered within 48 hours. Our volunteers are amazing.”
What touches Sayer the most is thoughtfulness in which the flowers are presented.
“Our team doesn’t just say ‘here are some flowers,’” she explains. “If we’re preparing an arrangement for a veteran, then the bouquet will feel patriotic. The recipients are very much considered when the flowers are arranged for them.”
In a time where the daily news is filled with sad and tragic headlines, Sayer is excited and invigorated by the work of their corps of volunteers nationwide.
“The feeling I get when I hear the truck leaving our workshop with our flower deliveries is indescribable,” Sayer says. “Because I know that our organization is changing the lives in our community — one beautiful bouquet at a time.”
To reserve your spot at the holiday centerpiece event on Dec. 12, visit RAFChicago.org or call 847-430-4751. Space is limited.
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Ann Marie Scheidler is a contributing writer with Make It Better who has made a career writing about people, their favorite places, and the things they value most. Ann Marie, a pearl-loving yogi who has a thing for travel, lives in Lake Forest with her husband and five children.