The core idea of Random Acts of Flowers is to re-purpose flowers; for instance, flowers that have just been used at a wedding could be distributed the next day to patients at a hospital or to residents in a nursing home.
This non-profit was founded by Larson Jay of Knoxville in 2008. He was taken aback by seeing hospital patients without flowers, in contrast to the many that came to his room in the days after recovering from a fall. Jay was inspired to change that imbalance.
Also inspired are Farragut residents Nancy Kirt and Carla Werner, who have been Randon Acts of Flowers volunteers for a few years. Both women said they get a lot of joy out of helping with the nonprofit.
When Kirt moved to Linda Heights from Wisconsin three years ago, she came with her Master Gardner credentials.
“I always thought delivering flowers would be fun,” she said. “I work in my yard a lot because I enjoy it.”
She saw an announcement for volunteers and attended a short orientation at the headquarters off Middlebrook Pike with about 20 others.
“There are a lot of people in Knoxville who volunteer,” she said. “There’s floral prep, there’s designing bouquets, there’s delivery, there are people who wash vases and buckets [so the flowers last longer] and there’s sweeping up,” she said. “People bring flowers to the warehouse after events, such as weddings, and get them from the grocery stores. John Benzinger donates flowers he grows. Sometimes companies donate staff time to do floral prep and sometimes students come in to get in volunteer hours.
“It’s a good environment,” she added about the warehouse. “Depending on the day, there’s usually about 20 to 30 volunteers. The warehouse isn’t air-conditioned, so there’s one very large fan. There’s music playing, there’s a lot of people you can talk to and people are making friendships at the same time. It’s busy. It’s uplifting to be there. I go about once a week for about three hours. You can come and go as you please.”
Werner retired as assistant principal at John Sevier Elementary School seven years ago.
“I knew I wanted to find some things to do on my interest level and I’d always loved flowers,” she said. “I saw an ad in a local magazine. Random Acts of Flowers was just beginning and they had classes where you could go learn design work. I went for three classes and the lady who was the manager of Random Acts who checked people in and assisted said, ‘Why don’t you do some design work at Random Acts of Flowers facility?’ It was a very small organization at the time, just beginning, and everybody did flowers, cleaned vases, whatever needed to be done.
“The flowers that were donated were always taken out of that arrangement and put in containers with water,” she explained. “We always made another original.”
After working in flower design for three or four years, she changed assignments.
“A couple of years ago, they needed someone to drive the delivery van to Maryville. Since I’d taught there, it was natural for me to go to Blount Memorial. Since then they’ve hired a driver, John Cavagrotti.”
Eventually, Werner became a delivery person at Blount Memorial Hospital.
“When the flower arrangements are made, we meet John at the hospital and he has the flowers in the van,” she said. “Blount Memorial has made us part of their volunteer staff.” Werner and two other ladies, Evelyn Weisekoff and Lori Chmielreski, have delivered flowers to patients’ rooms for about three years now.
“I think the part I like the best is when you walk into a room and the patient has received nothing. They have no flowers and they seem to be very sad. When you bring them flowers, it’s an immediate positive reaction most of the time,” Werner added. “You know you’ve done something nice for them today.”