Perhaps the only thing better than receiving a bouquet of flowers is giving one to someone who might not ever receive flowers otherwise. For The Flower Shuttle volunteers, brightening someone’s day with a beautiful bouquet is a pleasure they get to enjoy each week.
Founded by former Raleigh resident Kathy Reece over a decade ago, The Flower Shuttle, a nonprofit, recycles flowers that would’ve been thrown away after weddings, funerals and other events, and delivers them to sick, poor or disabled residents all over the community.
“For some people, it’s the first bouquet that they’ve ever gotten in their life. That’s pretty touching,” says Katherine McVey, the nonprofit’s current president. “We kind of take it for granted, just because we’re affluent and we can afford them. But for these people, I think it makes them feel really special.”
Reece was inspired to start The Flower Shuttle after reading a story in Oprah Magazine in 2006 about a woman in New York who, after seeing just how many flowers were thrown away after events, started a foundation to recycle those flowers and give them to people who needed some cheer.
Realizing just how much of an impact a single bouquet can make, Reece started a similar program in Raleigh, out of her kitchen, until Raleigh Moravian Church agreed to support The Flower Shuttle as a community outreach project, donating $700 in seed money to start the nonprofit. The church continues to serve as headquarters where volunteers meet and create floral arrangements each week, every Tuesday at 10 a.m., to sort, prep and arrange blooms in bud vases and mugs (also donated) from the donations of flowers picked up the same morning or the day before. Volunteers then deliver colorful bouquets to 21 locations across Raleigh, including the Healing Place of Wake County, Sunnybrook, Triangle Family Services and WakeMed.
“A lot of people who think they had been forgotten feel remembered now,” McVey, herself a former volunteer, says. McVey says she’s had her fair share of touching moments, and is dedicated to keeping The Flower Shuttle up and running into the future.
“I’ve gained a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I’m doing something to serve the community. People get so excited to see those flowers. It feels good to be a part of that.”
It’s not just the recipients of the bouquets that are appreciative, it’s the donors too, McVey says. She’s received notes from brides grateful that The Flower Shuttle could use their flowers after their weddings, and even some from funeral goers. McVey remembers one in particular where someone wrote, “My mom really loved flowers and she would be happy to know that somebody else got to use them and enjoy them.”
Since its inception, The Flower Shuttle continues to receive donations from people who don’t want to throw away their perfectly good flowers after events. The nonprofit has even had an impact in other cities as well; four flower recycling programs have grown from The Flower Shuttle, including in Nashville and in St. Louis.
In March alone, The Flower Shuttle volunteers created 1,116 arrangements, bringing the grand total of arrangements since the program first launched to 181,846.
Though The Flower Shuttle attracts an average of 70 volunteers per week, its substantial growth and ever-more generous donor base means The Flower Shuttle is looking for more volunteers, especially for coordinating and organizational positions.
If you’re interested in volunteering with The Flower Shuttle, visit theflowershuttle.com