Volunteer Robin Bantz will probably never forget the reaction of a woman at Stanford Hospital to whom she delivered flowers. The woman burst into tears at the sight of the colorful bouquet.
“I’m so grateful that you are here today, and you’ve really made my week because I haven’t seen anyone this week,” said Bantz, recalling the conversation. “I haven’t had any family or friends visit. It’s been kind of lonely, and this has just made a big difference. I’m so glad you’re here because you just made me feel so much better.”
That’s the intent of Blossom Buddies, a group of volunteers who put together bouquets of leftover flowers and give them to patients in hospitals and nursing homes.
Los Altos Hills resident Sheela Veerina started the organization in the spring, prompted by the closing of Random Acts of Flowers in Menlo Park.
“We were all very sad that it stopped,” Veerina said of Random Acts, “and we thought that it was very important for the community to have it.”
So did the hospitals and nursing homes, whose representatives continued to request bouquets on behalf of their patients. Veerina felt an obligation to help them.
“Nothing was happening,” she said, “so I said OK – I will just make five bouquets at home every week and just deliver them to somebody, to the VA hospitals.”
Other former members of Random Acts of Flowers soon joined her, along with local residents inspired by her work. The organization has blossomed, growing to 25 members. They devote several hours each week to crafting the bouquets and delivering them.
Blossom Buddies receives flowers donated by Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Draeger’s Market and Ladera Garden and Gifts. Volunteers collect the flowers each Monday and house them in Veerina’s garage.
The organization currently visits one hospital or nursing home each week – including Los Altos Sub-acute and Rehabilitation Center, the Palo Alto VA Hospital and Stanford Hospital – but Veerina said she hopes to do more when Blossom Buddies finds a permanent space.
On a recent morning as volunteers assembled bouquets in Veerina’s garage, many of them said delivering the flowers is the best part of their day.
“Usually, the reaction I get is a reaction of appreciation,” Bantz said. “Reactions of feeling blessed, thankful and happy. I am uplifted by being able to shine some light into someone’s day.”
Another member of Blossom Buddies recalled a delivery she made to an assisted-living facility. She intended to give the bouquet to a man, but he insisted they go to his wife across the hall.
“I’ve never been able to give her flowers since we’ve been in here, so this will be a big treat for her,” the volunteer recalled of the interaction. “So we let him take the bouquet, knock on the door and present her with the flowers. (There were) tears everywhere, and the wife was like, ‘Honey, you did this for me after all these years?’”
While Veerina said she feels joy from the work Blossom Buddies does, she also stressed how important it is to the patients they serve.
“My parents are both physicians, so I know mental health in a patient’s life is as important as the physical stuff,” she said. “If you have hope and you have joy and you have happiness, it makes you feel better, and your health also improves. We’re hoping to do a tiny part in that.”