Despite the shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Santa Barbara-based Dream Foundation is continuing its Flower Empower program, which delivers hundreds of bouquets a week to patients, first responders, isolated seniors, and even neighbors.
The volunteer crews that create the colorful and welcoming bouquets have had to adjust with social distancing and other measures to get the bouquets made and delivered. The arrangements also come with a handmade card, fine chocolate and a homemade chocolate chip cookie (created by volunteer Robin Himovitz, who has baked thousands of cookies for nearly a decade).
For longtime volunteer Melinda Werner, Flower Empower is a family affair.
“My kids fell in love with the cause,” she said. “My three daughters — Mikayla, 23, Delaney, 21, and Emmerson, 14 — have volunteered with me for over 10 years. When they were all in virtual school and homebound this year, we created bouquets in our garage and delivered them.
“We volunteer most Saturdays. During the shutdown, they gave a few of the volunteers the opportunity to make bouquets at home and give to neighbors as well. It turned into such a great thing! We have lots of bicyclists and pedestrians on our street. My daughters and I made 25 bouquets and left them at the end of our driveway along with information on Dream Foundation. I thought at first no one would want them or touch them. We were totally wrong. People were so thrilled to get something bright and cheerful. You could see them smiling through their masks! Folks stopped and just wanted to talk. I had conversations about Dream Foundation and met neighbors I never knew. We received anonymous letters and small donations in our mailbox thereafter, in addition to a note that said that they had gone online to make a donation.”
In addition to the bouquet flowers, which are donated by Carpinteria growers, the Dream Foundation partners with Westerlay Orchids to help distribute and deliver 100,000 orchid plants to frontline workers, essential workers, teachers and people in the community during the lockdown.
“Deliveries are not quick,” Werner said. “When you deliver the flowers, the recipients really want to talk and have human interaction. It’s more than the flowers.”
Along with making 250 bouquet deliveries a week, Dream Foundation volunteers are also helping to organize the 10th annual Flower Empower Luncheon, which will be held virtually this year. The event will go live at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 25 on the Dream Foundation website, its Facebook event page and on Instagram. Supporters on the Facebook event page can click “Interested” or “Going” to see all of the updates as the Dream Foundation counts down to the event. Similar updates will be available on Instagram.
Volunteer Lynette Hall is part of a committee of 10 people who are helping coordinate the luncheon.
“We have had the event in many locations over the years, including The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Belmond El Encanto, etc.,” she said. “Last year, we planned the event at a Hope Ranch estate. However, torrential rains made us cancel those plans. We quickly relocated the event to the Page Youth Center. All of us want to be incredibly creative to keep the program alive so it isn’t invisible. We are hoping our supporters will continue to participate in our new ‘virtual’ venue.
“I was motivated to get involved after losing a friend. It was a way to bring me into the fold. I picked up buckets of dahlias and gerbera daisies from Myriad Flowers International and armloads of mini roses. I am so amazed at the generosity. When I make bouquet deliveries on Saturday mornings, people are so happy.”
» Youth Volunteer of the Year — Kira Duffy
» Volunteer of the Year — Boris Palencia
» Corporate Volunteer of the Year — Barbara Allcock of Deckers Brands
» Florist of the Year — Kim Curtis of Toast
» Sponsor of the Year — Kate and Arthur Coppola
Also honored will be Westerlay Orchids. It will receive a new Flower Empower award for this year — the Special Award for Outstanding Contribution — for its pledge to give away 100,000 orchids to the community, which includes 15,000 to Flower Empower.
Click here for more information about the Dream Foundation, or visit the organization at 1528 Chapala St., Suite 304 in Santa Barbara, call 805.564.2131 or email email@example.com.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.