Monday, Nov 24, 2014
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Random Acts of Flowers group brighten up patients’ day

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TRINITY — When volunteers walked into her room with a vase full of carnations and orchids, Blanca Diaz smiled. Her hospital room, though clean and orderly, was bereft of any bright colors or personal touches. Not anymore.

“They’re so very beautiful,” Diaz said quietly. “They smell so good.”

Diaz was one of 50 patients at the Medical Center of Trinity last week who received a surprise flower delivery made possible by a charity organization called Random Acts of Flowers.

Volunteers for the organization “rescue” flowers from weddings, memorial services and, sometimes even grocery stores when they’ve passed their selling prime, to freshen them up for a new life to cheer up recovering patients at local hospitals, hospices and more, said Monica Kok, the mission fulfillment director for the Pinellas chapter of Random Acts of Flowers.

“We identify patients who really need that pick-me-up,” said Marlene Jaime, with quality management at the medical center. “Maybe they’ve had no visitors or flowers delivered here and this helps brighten their day.”

Random Acts of Flowers Pinellas is based in Dunedin but travels as far as Trinity to work with health care centers to identify patients who could benefit from a flower delivery. The Pinellas group begin in November 2013 as the first branch of the national Random Acts of Flowers, which is based in Knoxville, Tenn.

There, the organization started when its founder, Larsen Jay, was in a near-fatal accident in 2007 and received daily visitors and dozens of floral arrangements When Jay was capable of leaving his room, he noticed how many of his fellow patients did not have visitors or flowers — the very thing that helped him so much in those early and difficult days.

Within moments, the first Random act of Flowers delivery was made. Jay repurposed his flowers and delivered them to patients in nearby hospital rooms then went on to form Random Act of Flowers in 2008.

The demand is so much higher than the organization can deliver but it hopes to expand its operation with flower donations and monetary donations from individuals in the community. The Pinellas branch has partnered with local businesses like MacKinnon Jewelers, in Mitchell Ranch Plaza, which serves as a drop-off point for vases.

Deliveries are made twice a week to major hospitals and healthcare centers in Pinellas and Pasco counties. On the days deliveries aren’t being made, volunteers are cleaning, cutting, feeding and re-arranging new bouquets from a variety of donated flowers.

“It’s so moving,” said volunteer Robin Falzene. “It’s so important to help other people, to remember them.”

For more information on Random Acts of Flowers Pinellas, visit http://rafpinellas.org.

You can reach Daylina at dmiller@suncoastnews.com or (727) 815-1067. Follow her on Twitter at @DaylinaMiller

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