Larsen Jay is a man who knows the power of flowers and the joy they can bring to a person who needs them.
After falling from a ladder, Larsen was confined to a hospital bed and had to endure a long and painful recovery. Fortunately, he was lucky enough to receive many visitors and cards. The attention and outpouring of love did wonders for his mood and outlook. His hospital room was always filled with flowers. The explosion of color and fragrance in his room brightened his day and made him feel better about his hospital confinement.
Once he was better and able to move around the hospital, he was surprised to see that there were rooms entirely bare of flowers. His solution was to go back to his own room, remove the cards from his bouquets and give them away to flower-less rooms on the ward.
The reaction he received from just this simple gesture was overwhelming and "every day, two, three, four, five deliveries of multiple bouquets" arrived in Larsen's hospital room.
Thus Random Acts of Flowers was born. Based in Knoxville, Tenn., it brings a dash of color and a smile to people's lives.
Along with a team of volunteers, Larsen collects flowers from grocery stores, weddings, funerals and other events where they would otherwise be thrown away. These flowers are taken to the Random Acts of Flowers headquarters, which are in a small section of an old jeans warehouse, a space donated to them by a member of the public.
Then begins the job of sorting through the flowers, dismantling any pre-made bouquets and ensuring the dead ones are thrown away. Any ribbons, decorations or vases are stored for later use -- nothing is left to waste and everything is repurposed. Even the dead flowers are used for compost. No bouquet is given to its recipient as it is collected by Random Acts of Flowers; it is always lovingly re-arranged by the dedicated volunteers.
The volunteers range from former florists to people with no flower arranging experience. The organization also receives letters from patients who promise that they will themselves volunteer once they have recovered from whatever keeps them in the hospital.
Once they have been assembled, after only a matter of hours, the bouquets are then delivered to nursing homes, hospitals and hospices -- any place where a bouquet of flowers might liven up someone's day.
As soon as Random Acts of Flowers arrives at the Elm Croft of Halls assisted living facility in Knoxville, the excitement is palpable. The staff is eager to see the reactions from their residents, knowing it will really bring smiles to their faces. "We try and keep it as much of a surprise as we can so we can capture the excitement", says Rebecca Lane, Executive Director of Elm Croft of Halls.
The reactions from the residents are even more enjoyable. After an initial element of confusion -- 'What, these flowers are for me?' or, 'Who are these from?' -- a beaming smile soon emerges from behind the bouquet or flower pot. The element of it for them 'just because' makes the gift all the more enjoyable. For those whose families are unable to visit or cannot visit them regularly, this show of kindness and thoughtfulness from complete strangers is a real surprise and pleasure.
Larsen's favorite moment is when he can leave his flowers when a patient is out of their room. "You just leave it behind, and you know when they get back, they're gonna have a little treat waiting for them."
It is such a simple concept and yet one that creates an instant effect. With relatively little time, flowers are repurposed and given new life, improving someone's day to no end. One resident says that it is "such a lovely thing to do for we who are happy here."
Larsen hopes that Random Acts of Flowers will grow to communities across the country, and abroad. 'There are always flowers being thrown away, and there are always people who are sick who would enjoy flowers', he explains.