Bringing flowers to a loved one in the hospital is a time-honored tradition. But, you probably don’t realize exactly how much of a difference this simple act can make. Research shows that patients in rooms with plants and flowers have less pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and they take less pain medication, than patients in a flowerless room.
Unfortunately, many people in healthcare facilities don’t realize these benefits because they don’t receive flowers. At the same time, many perfectly good flowers are thrown away — after holidays (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day), after weddings, and even simply because they’re past their prime and not likely to sell in flower shops.
Random Acts of Flowers, a nonprofit based in Knoxville, TN, solves both of these problems. Their mission is to uplift the spirits of people in healthcare facilities by delivering them flowers that would otherwise go to waste. To learn more about this inspiring organization, we spoke with Program Coordinator Annelynn Fairclough.
The idea for the nonprofit came about a little over 10 years ago, when Larsen Jay, the founder, was in the hospital following a near-fatal accident. On his long road to recovery, Jay’s family and friends visited frequently, often bringing him flowers. But, Jay noticed that not all the patients were so lucky. Many never got visitors, much less flowers. So, he took one of his own arrangements and delivered it to a fellow patient. With that simple act of kindness, Random Acts of Flowers was born.
The nonprofit grew quickly — they now operate in five locations: Knoxville, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Silicon Valley. Fairclough works out of the Silicon Valley location, and with the help of about 400 volunteers, they deliver around 250 bouquets each week to hospitals, hospice care facilities, and assisted living centers in the area.
Of course, 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.
We were moved by the nonprofit’s mission and wanted to get involved. “The fact CoolBot was donated made the biggest difference,” Fairclough says.
This CoolBot project was a little different from the ones we’ve worked on in the past. As you know if you’ve read any of our other customer stories, the first step is usually to build an insulated room. Here, the goal was to create a cold room in an uninsulated workshop, which required some creative engineering. Fortunately, the Random Acts of Flowers volunteer force includes some technically savvy folks, and we worked with them to design an installation to meet the organization’s needs.
The solution we came up with functions more like a cooling air-flow mechanism than a cooler. In the summer, the CoolBot keeps the room at about 60°F. Fairclough jokes that when winter comes around, the CoolBot works a little too well, keeping the temperature hovering around 45°F. The solution there is simple — when it’s cold outside, they just turn the system off.
It may be non-traditional, but for Random Acts of Flowers, it works perfectly. “The CoolBot changed the game for our organization,” says Fairclough. “It’s common for us to get flowers on their last leg, so trying to extend their life was difficult. The CoolBot made a big difference in the quality of flowers we deliver.”
Random Acts of Flowers is an amazing organization that provides a service far beyond simply delivering flowers. They help people get better by encouraging physical and emotional healing. This isn’t just an aspiration — it has been empirically verified.
A 2016 study by the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine found that almost 95% of patients who received flowers from the organization reported improvements in their overall emotional wellness. For more than 80% of the patients in the study, the flowers were the only gift they received, and for 11%, the Random Acts of Flowers volunteers were their only visitors.
If you’re as inspired by this story as we are, there are many ways you can get involved. For those living in one of the five Random Acts of Flowers locations, you can volunteer your time and put a smile on someone’s face by delivering flowers. The organization also accepts donations of money, vases, and of course flowers. Learn more on their website.