Random Acts of Flowers is a non-profit organization that recycles and repurposes donated flowers for delivery to patients in area healthcare facilities. As a recycling "green" charity run almost entirely by volunteers, Random Acts of Flowers is committed to nourishing the health of the environment, individuals, and the community.
Just before the end of a long, frigid, lake-effect winter, Random Acts of Flowers Chicago had the opportunity to feel the warmth of summer through a very special partnership with the Joffrey Ballet. For opening night of the company’s season opener (and North American premiere) Midsummer Night’s Dream, Random Acts of Flowers took center stage for just a moment to share our mission with the performers and the audience.
RAF Chicago’s Executive Director Andrea Lutz reminisced about the experience. “Sitting in the audience, watching this Midsummer Night’s Dream, I was filled with happiness that we were partnering with such a touchstone of the Chicago community and their audience was connecting with us in a new way.”
Volunteers created beautiful, rustic bouquets for the dancers to congratulate them on a wonderful opening night and to share the power of flowers first-hand. One of the dancers even shared the gift with all of her followers on Instagram.
As part of the partnership, RAF Chicago was also featured in the program (see page 42) for Midsummer Night’s Dream, reaching the thousands of audience members who saw the production.
A volunteer who received tickets to attend the performance wrote to Andrea and Sydney. “My husband and I went to the Joffrey Ballet performance on Thursday night, and Midsummer Night’s Dream was fabulous…The ballet was visually surreal, inventive, and like nothing we’d ever seen. Humor, darkness, weirdness, and beauty from one moment to the next, a masterpiece. I can’t thank you enough for the tickets. We wouldn’t have had the experience otherwise!”
Partnerships like the one with the Joffrey Ballet are important to the Random Acts of Flowers mission because it aligns RAF and the mission of delivering hope to a beloved cultural institution’s mission; it puts Random Acts of Flowers front-and-center to a new audience of supporters through advertising space and social media; it gives us an opportunity to thank volunteers who do so much to keep the day-to-day mission running; and it showcases was RAF is about on a larger scale, positioning us a nonprofit to know in the communities we serve.
If there’s ever a season punctuated by flora, it’s spring. In-bloom flowers awaken in every garden and at every grocery store. TBH, just simply looking at them functions as therapy, which is something that’s not lost on sisters Christine and Caroline Strzalka, who want to make stems an everyday part of life.
This year, the duo launched their bouquet subscription service, [RAF Supporter] It’s By U, which offers DIY farm-fresh flower-arranging subscription kits that are suitable for even the most amateur of floral stylists. “One of the things we’re trying to do is allow people have flowers in their lives more often,” says Christine. “They’re not just for gifting or special events—they should always be in your home or office.”
Our Founder and CEO Larsen Jay recently spoke at TEDx UTK on The Healing Power of Flowers.
He shared his personal experience (which led to the founding of RAF) and testimonials from recipients that truly show the difference that flowers can make in the healing process.
The Healing Power of Flowers | Larsen Jay | TEDxUTK - YouTube
“The trick to keeping flowers fresh and beautiful is keeping them cool. Proper temperature control is even more important when flowers are recycled. And it can be a major challenge, particularly in the summer, where temperatures in Silicon Valley average in the 80s.
‘Our workshop isn’t well ventilated,’ Fairclough says. ‘There aren’t any windows. During the summer, our flowers were just dying by the day because of the excessive heat that was building up in the workshop.’
To beat the suffocating heat, Fairclough and her team built a mock cold room using an air conditioner and some plastic sheeting. It was better but still didn’t cut it. Thankfully, one of her volunteers happened to be a freelance florist who knew about the CoolBot. So, Fairclough picked up the phone and gave us a call” …
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share the news of the passing of Cindy McConkey Cox, our Chief Operating & Marketing Officer for Random Acts of Flowers. After a heroic four-year battle with cancer, Cindy died early this morning with her family by her side.
I cannot begin to express how devastated we are as a team. Cindy was a guiding light in our organization since her first day in April 2016. Within our organization she was known as a brilliant communicator, a strategic thinker, and someone who always put others above herself. Thoughtful, warm, and ‘one tough cookie’ is how her closest friends describe Cindy.
We extend our deepest sympathies to her husband Gary and their two children. A woman of deep faith, Cindy cherished her new role of ‘grandmother’ and anyone who spent much time with her was bound to see a picture of her dogs including her new black lab Sable.
Our love for Cindy is hard to put into words. Her loss is profound. We will miss her deeply but we are also grateful our team could share so many meaningful personal and professional milestones with this wonderful woman.”
– Larsen Jay / Founder & CEO, Random Acts of Flowers
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It’s what the sunflowers do.” – Helen Keller
Knoxville grower John Benzinger has been cultivating the local soil for more than fifty years. In that time, he ran a tobacco farm and a dairy farm followed by a sunflower nursery. He got into the flower business several years after selling the dairy farm in the mid-1980s. During the interim, John returned to the University of Tennessee to complete his college education. “I finished my degree at age 45. I started in 1957 and ended in 1984” Benzinger laughs as he recounts the dates. Then, he taught horticulture and agriculture at Lenoir City High School, and learned greenhouse gardening alongside his students.
Over time, the cut flowers that John grew found their way into farmers’ markets from here to Atlanta and then he sold sunflowers in Kroger grocery stores. Then, he saw RAF co-founder and CEO Larsen Jay on TV and thought “this is a way I can give flowers to people so they can enjoy them.”
The RAF Knoxville workshop enjoyed the sunny faces of John and his sunflowers all summer long. Bouquets featured the beautiful orange and yellow flowers, and brought sunshine to recipients in assisted living facilities and hospitals from Oak Ridge to Maryville.
And, a piece of John goes with each one of his flowers – the brightness of his smile, the earthiness of his laugh, and his commitment to the people in his community.
The poinsettia’s association with Christmas comes from a Mexican legend. The story goes that a child, with no means for a gift, gathered humble weeds from the side of the road to place at the church alter on Christmas Eve. As the congregation watched, the weeds turned into brilliant red and green flowers.
But, the most beautiful “petals” on the plant aren’t flowers at all, but lush red, white, or green leaves. The flowers are actually the little yellow buds in the center of each collection of leaves (the collection of leaves is called a bracht).
In the US, the poinsettia is named after the US Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the flower to us in 1825.
However, the poinsettia is also known as the Christmas Star, Christmas Flower, Mexican Flame Leaf, Lobster Flower, Winter Rose, Flores de Nochebuena (“Flowers of the Holy Night – Christmas Eve), Crown of the Andes, and, in Turkey, Atakurk’s Flower (named after the founder of modern Turkey).
Many people believe that poinsettias are highly toxic, but that is a myth. While it’s not recommended for people or animals to eat poinsettias, a 50 lb. child would have to eat 500 leaves to have a major reaction. Some people who have a latex allergy might find skin contact with poinsettia sap irritates their skin.
The poinsettia is December’s birth flower.
Left to its own devices, a poinsettia bush can grow to heights of 10 to 15 feet.
There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today. Poinsettias can grow in colors like the traditional red, white, pink, burgundy, marbled, and speckled.
More than 35 MILLION potted poinsettias are sold every year in the US, accounting for almost one quarter of the potted plants sold.
Random Acts of Flowers branches will bring a little extra cheer to more than 5,000 vulnerable individuals in hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country by delivering poinsettias and other holiday flowers. Find out more on how you can support delivering hope during this season of giving on the Knoxville, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Silicon Valley, and Indianapolis branch websites.
Once the Flowers Arrive, the Real Magic Begins
(The Flyer Group, 11.10.2017)
by Sara Nahrwold
In just one year, Random Acts of Flowers Indianapolis has delivered more than 17,000 flower arrangements to the area’s most vulnerable residents in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities. The organization already has its eyes on year number two.
“It’s been great, overwhelming,” Lindsay Potter, program director for Random Acts of Flowers, said.
Since its inception, the business has stayed true to its mission — to improve the emotional health and well-being of individuals in health care facilities by delivering recycled flowers, encouragement and personal moments of kindness. Now, it’s looking to continue fulfilling that mission by adding another partner.
Potter recently met with Linda Ryser, patient liaison and manager of service excellence and volunteer services at Indiana University Health West Hospital in Avon. Ryser said the two talked about the mission, the history of the business and the organizational structure of the company.
“IU Health West enthusiastically agreed to partner with Random Acts of Flowers,” Ryser said. “Besides their mission of providing encouragement and kindness to patients, Random Acts of Flowers is also dedicated to recycling 100 percent of the arrangements they receive in order to keep these floral materials out of landfills. This is hugely important to the employees of IU Health West who have been participating in a recycling program at our hospital for several years.”
The Indianapolis chapter is part of the national organization of Random Acts of Flowers. The company’s founder and CEO, Larsen Jay, was in a near fatal accident in 2007. He was overwhelmed at the hospital with flowers from people showing their support and said that impacted his recovery.
“He saw people come and go that didn’t have visitors,” Potter said. When he got better, he repurposed his flowers and set out to deliver the first “random act of flowers.”
The company then formed in 2008 in Knoxville, Tenn., and has added locations in Chicago, Silicon Valley, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis.
How it Works
Random Acts of Flowers operates within a 30-minute radius from Indianapolis. The company has delivered to locations in Plainfield and Brownsburg.
Donated flowers are brought to the organization’s shop, whether that’s by individuals or companies. Random Acts of Flowers receives flowers from funerals, weddings, wholesalers (flowers that didn’t sell) and grocery stores (because of sell-by dates).
“We aren’t competing with the floral industry, we depend on the floral industry,” Potter said.
For example, someone can’t call Random Acts of Flowers and send $30 to have flowers delivered to grandma at the hospital. That still falls under the floral industry.
Once the flowers arrive, the real magic begins.
“We have a team that takes everything apart and sorts through what we can/can’t use,” Potter said. “We compost what we can’t use.”
Once the flowers are sorted and deemed good enough to reuse, arranging begins. The volunteers usually have a goal to make about 200 flower arrangements a day.
Afterwards, the flowers are delivered with the help of staff at hospitals and nursing homes and Random Acts of Flowers volunteers.
The organization works closely with hospitals and other medical facilities to figure out who to give the flowers to. Some base it on who needs it the most, who hasn’t gotten flowers/visitors or if someone receives life-changing news. Other hospitals have a policy if one person on the floor gets an arrangement, then everyone does.
“We believe in the power of flowers to enhance moods,” Potter said. “It’s really about that connection.”
Looking ahead, Random Acts of Flowers Indianapolis hopes to deliver around 25,000 arrangements next year.
“We are trying to create new partnerships with hospitals,” Potter said. “We constantly want to find new places and new flowers to rescue.”
Random Acts of Flowers is finalizing the preparatory work with the hospital in hopes that the bouquets will be delivered to patients within the next few months.
Overall, the success has been overwhelming. “Indianapolis has been great for [Random Acts of Flowers],” Potter said. “There’s a wonderful floral community here.”
One of the big areas the organization needs help with is vases, which can also be donated at the office. They go through about 300 a week.
“When you see an organization such as Random Acts of Flowers reaching out and sharing joy in this way, it not only lifts the spirits of the patients, but also their families and friends, the caregivers who treat the patients, and the community as a whole,” Ryser said.
“Hey, beautiful. I’ve got some flowers for you,” he said as he strolled into Heidi Reimer’s examination room. “It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I just wanted to come out and put a smile on your face.”