Life is short, but flowers are forever. Well, they may begin to fade after a week or so, but they’re a very nice gesture and the Dream Foundation, based in downtown Santa Barbara, has been donating bouquets of colorful blossoms to the sick and elderly for 12 years through a program called Flower Empower.
The program was born when Dream Foundation founder Thomas Rollerson was busying himself with volunteer work at area hospitals and hospices in the mid ‘90s. Sterile, cold rooms of institutional gray, sad and lonely patients, and a plain absence of color and excitement cried out for one obvious thing: flowers. Deeply moved, Rollerson engaged flower growers and a bundle of helpers, some of whom remain with Flower Empower today, and launched a grassroots charity program dedicated to bringing a spark of happiness into the lives of others. In the years since, volunteers have assembled and delivered more than 20,000 bouquets to people in need.
Flower Empower keeps a booth at the Saturday morning Farmers Market at Cota and Santa Barbara streets. There, approximately 15 volunteers meet, put together flower bundles, and prepare them for delivery that morning. The flowers are donated by such growers as Gallup and Stribling, Ever-Bloom, Westerly, B&H, the Van Wingerden Family, Westland Floral, and Myriad Flowers, and such individuals as Gary Nett and Mel and Angie Farber have contributed greatly to the program throughout the years.
Currently, recipients of the flowers number between 30 and 40 and live at hospitals, hospices, care facilities, and private residences, including Casa Dorinda, the Serenity House, and Goleta Valley Hospital. They receive the bouquets every week, and with each bundle come several home-baked chocolate chip cookies and a card made by area schoolchildren.
Perhaps more importantly than the gifts, however, is the simple fact that the Flower Empower bouquet courier’s weekly visit may comprise the bulk of the recipient’s human contact. “These people are seriously ill,” said Stephanie Forrester, longtime volunteer and Flower Empower program coordinator. “For some of them, this person delivering flowers is the first person they’ve seen all week. It’s really a beautiful thing.”
The Dream Foundation, which grants wishes to terminally ill adults who have less than a year to live, receives no federal or state funding and relies solely on individual and corporate contributions. To promote Flower Empower and secure more volunteers, the Dream Foundation will host Flower Empower Community Day on Saturday, August 11, at the Farmers Market. Visitors to the Farmers Market are asked to stop by the booth, sample food donated by vendors at the market, and consider donating their time or money to the cause to make this summer a season of sharing.
For further information, please contact Stephanie Forrester, Flower Empower program coordinator, at 564-2131. Visit dreamfoundation.org.