iSociety: Rochelle Rose

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the event.]

Overcast skies did not deter a sold-out crowd to support the outdoor silent auction and festivities preceding the annual Flower Empower Luncheon held last Thursday on behalf of Santa Barbara’s Dream Foundation.

More than 200 guests filled the brick-lined courtyard at the newly renovated El Encanto Hotel to make generous bids at the silent auction to support the nonprofit organization’s special program called Flower Empower.

Flower Empower is a volunteer program that delivers hope and compassion — in the form of beautiful bouquets — to hospitals, hospices, cancer centers and personal residences. In addition to gorgeous bouquets of locally grown flowers, recipients enjoy fresh-baked cookies, fine chocolates and cards handmade by local schoolchildren. The mission of Flower Empower ?is to ensure the recipients know they are not alone and that their community cares.

Several days each week, groups of volunteers gather at the local farmers market and other locations, where they prepare dozens of arrangements using donated flowers. Local growers and businesses directly supporting the project include B&H Flowers, Botanik, Chocolats du CaliBressan, Domingo Farms, Ever-Bloom, Andrew and Ivana Firestone, Florabundance, the Himovitz family, Maximum Nursery, Myriad Flowers, Angie and Steve Redding, Trader Joe’s, Valley Flowers Inc., Westerlay Orchids, Westland Floral and others.

Important Flower Empower sponsors included 2013 Program Sponsors Herb and Bui Simon; Arthur and Kate Coppola; Michael and Colleen Taylor; Paul and Shelly Schulte, Peter and Hollie Schulte and Michael and Sylvia Molony on behalf of the Rudi Schulte Family Foundation; Eat Drink Garden with Valerie; Nora McNeely-Hurley; and many more.

After the pleasant social hour that featured passed hors d’oeuvres, wine and refreshments, a spirited silent auction and live music on the lawn, supporters strolled to the El Encanto’s downstairs ballroom. Some guests at the oversold event were seated at outdoor tables near the main ballroom. The outdoor attendees were not put out, however, as whoops and hollers greeted every announcement and opportunity to support from the “outsiders.”

KEYT newscasters Alan Rose and Shirin Rajaee were event committee members and opened the program. The on-air duo also volunteer as a pair to deliver the bouquets to recovering and ill patients at Cottage Hospital.

“I cannot tell you the love that we experience from the recipients we are honored to deliver with the bouquets,” Rajaee said. “Sometimes the patients are sleeping so we leave our flower packages. For the many that have no flowers of any kind in their room, we are able to deliver this gift of love and caring. It is incredible the smiles and gratitude that we receive.”

In Santa Barbara alone, 150 bouquets a week are delivered to local hospitals and care centers. Proceeds from the Flower Empower Luncheon could expand the program from one to three days a week.

Other event committee members included Valerie Banks, Jodi-Fishman-Osti, Lynette Hall, Robin Himovitz, Amie Parrish, Shelley Schulte and Steven Shulem. Recognition was awarded to Bella Darke as Youth Volunteer of the Year, Schulte as Volunteer of the Year and Westerlay Orchids as Grower of the Year. Event collateral design was donated by Brooke Hansen and other students in Barbara Obermeier’s design lab class at the Brooks Institute.

Dream Foundation president and founder Tom Rollerson spoke about his motivation for starting the program.

“My mother became ill and hospitalized when I was 6 months old,” he said. “Up until the time my mom died when I was 11, my father drove me and my four siblings for two hours to visit my mother each week. We always brought her a bouquet of flowers, which gave her joy.

“Thank you for this beautiful day, the beautiful cause and the beautiful people here today.”

Rollerson founded the Dream Foundation in 1992 as a grant-wishing organization after he discovered no such place existed to honor the final wishes of adults. With the support of the community, he created the Dream Foundation. The mission of organization is to enhance the quality of life for individuals and their families facing a life-threatening illness by fulfilling a heart’s final wish.

The first and largest national wish-granting organization for adults, the Dream Foundation has been touching lives, meeting needs, reuniting families, and providing peace, closure and joy at the end of life’s journey. Together with hundreds of volunteers and more than 600 hospices and health-care organizations nationwide, it has fulfilled thousands of dreams across the country each year.

The “dreamers” have received a life expectancy of one year or less, and lack the resources to achieve their dreams on their own. While the Dream Foundation cannot cure their diseases, it positively impacts the quality of their fragile lives with the joy experienced from a dream come true.

Click here for more information on how to support or volunteer for the Dream Foundation’s Flower Empower program, or call Valerie Banks at 805.564.2131 or email her via the website.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @NoozhawkSociety and connect with Noozhawk on Facebook and Pinterest.