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Students Cultivate the Power of Flowers

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By delivering weekly bouquets in April, high school students raised more than $22,000 for Direct Relief International.

 

 

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Community service in this case should be called multicommunity service. For the second year in a row, local high school students have carried out Flowers for Relief, a fund raiser for Direct Relief International.

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For South Coast residents, a $100 donation brought Gerbera daisy bouquets each Monday in April, and 100 percent of the proceeds went to Direct Relief. This year, students raised more than $22,000, which will help communities worldwide.

Those who purchased weekly flowers had the option to receive them in their own homes or have them delivered elsewhere. Some donors opted to send an anonymous surprise to someone who needed an ounce of weekly cheer.

“My favorite part is people’s reactions. ... It was a fun surprise for the people at Storyteller (Transition House) when we brought them flowers for the first time,” Dos Pueblos High junior Meaghan Yolles said before she made her deliveries on a recent Monday.

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Annie Villanueva, a senior at Santa Barbara High, started Flowers for Relief last year.  Since she was 12, her family has taken trips through Direct Relief to Zambia and El Salvador.

“Seeing how much need there was in other parts of the world and how much of a difference I could make has certainly changed my life,” Villanueva said.

The launch of Flowers for Relief has come with challenges, as Villanueva learned.

“Keeping so many busy teenagers in sync is no easy job, but what we lack in organization we definitely make up for in enthusiasm," she said. "This year, we did a much better job than we did last year, so hopefully that trend will continue.”

After Villanueva graduates in June, the torch of leadership will pass to her sister and other volunteers. Villanueva says her favorite part is “knowing that we are helping people on both ends, in Santa Barbara when we deliver their flowers, and also abroad, where our money is going to good use. This combination is infinitely better than either of the two alone.”

To make this project possible, Carpinteria flower growers Maximum Nursery and Ocean Breeze International donated dozens of Gerbera bouquets each week. Upon delivery, students from Bishop Diego, Dos Pueblos, San Marcos and Santa Barbara high schools supplied their sweet smiles to go with the bouquets.

Direct Relief International is a nonprofit, worldwide organization headquartered in Goleta. It provides medical material aid in more than 60 countries, including the United States, and boasts high efficiency of monetary funds. Every $1 spent by Direct Relief provides $21 to $35 in wholesale medical material to those in need.

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