We encounter them often. In hotel lobbies and doctors’ offices, on restaurant tables and in the hands of brides. But have you ever stopped to wonder how many flowers didn’t make the cut when creating all those bouquets? And more importantly, could those discarded blooms be “recycled” to brighten someone’s day—someone who might really need it?
Fortunately, these are precisely the questions that kept swirling in Heidi Berkman’s mind. After years of working as a corporate meeting planner and seeing perfectly pretty flowers tossed at the end of events, she longed to find a meaningful way to repurpose them. Then in 2002, she helped walk a family member through hospice care and the idea for The Bloom Project took shape.
“After spending some time thinking about this idea, I found people were looking for a unique opportunity to give back to hospice without interacting with patients,” says Berkman. The nonprofit receives flower donations from grocers, growers and distributors, as well as leftover flower arrangements from events. Volunteers carefully sift through and create new bouquets designed to last at least a week, then deliver them to hospice and palliative-care organizations. At certain times during the year, like around the holidays and Valentine’s Day, there are so many “extra” flowers that bouquets are also donated to children’s hospitals and Meals on Wheels.
In 2015 alone, The Bloom Project delivered over 10,000 bouquets around its original location in Central Oregon, and over 30,000 bouquets in the Portland area. “It works because we have a very lean business model,” says Berkman, who manages to get all the flowers, vases and floral supplies donated, as well as the company’s two workspaces and all utilities. Aside from a few key staff, The Bloom Project runs solely on the efforts of volunteers.
Everyone involved with The Bloom Project is touched by its mission. Volunteers say the opportunity has given them a way to give back that they wouldn’t have imagined; the social workers, chaplains and hospice workers who deliver the bouquets notice how flowers change the conversation in patients’ rooms; and patients themselves are beyond moved by the gesture. “For some patients this is the first bouquet they have received in their entire lives,” says Berkman. “It is a gesture that makes a huge impression. It says people—even people you don’t know—are thinking about you and your family.”
In the future, The Bloom Project is hoping to increase its sponsorships and build upon its sustainable donor society to where individuals can donate in the name of a loved one. “Our end goal is to put as many flowers as possible into hands and homes across America,” Berkman explains. “Eventually we would like to share our model where resources are available. You have to have a lot of different components in place, and not every community will have that.” In the meantime, The Bloom Project will continue to enrich the lives of those they touch in Oregon, and will inspire the rest of us.
Find out more at The Bloom Project