Wherever you go within the Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln or the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers, arrangements of colorful, fresh flowers are sure to catch your eye.
Arrangements in large urns welcome visitors at the houses’ entrances. Flowers grace the reception, dining areas, hallways, chapels, and other common spaces to give a warm, home-like feel. Acquiring and maintaining the flowers doesn’t happen by accident. Thanks to Care Dimensions volunteers and partnerships with local businesses and other organizations, flowers offer a comfortable presence at both hospice houses throughout the year.
When the Care Dimensions Hospice House (CDHH) opened in 2018, volunteers brought in flowers from their gardens or kept an eye out for flowers that could be retrieved after weddings. Lincoln- and Waltham-area funeral homes and grocery stores also donated flowers that otherwise would have been discarded. (They continue to do so, on a case-by-case basis.) A short time later, volunteer Alana Osher of Lexington had an idea about how to get and keep fresh flowers at the hospice house.
“I shop at Trader Joe’s in Burlington and got to know the manager,” Osher recalled. “I asked if they’d be willing to donate flowers that remained unsold when the new inventory arrived, and they said, ‘Sure!’ All we had to do was pick them up on a specific day every week.”
Each Wednesday, Osher picked up the flowers at Trader Joe’s and delivered them to the CDHH garage, where volunteers selected the freshest flowers from the bunch and trimmed and placed them in vases with water before distributing them around the hospice house.
“Trader Joe’s has been incredible,” said volunteer Betsy Swaim of Concord, who grew up gardening with her mother and has converted most of her yard from grass to gardens. “Sometimes we get buckets and buckets of flowers that we pick through. So many of them are still beautiful.”
“We really pride ourselves on being a neighborhood store, and we give to help members of our community who will benefit from the donations,” said Burlington Trader Joe’s Captain Wendy Cavanaugh.
When other commitments prevented Osher from picking up flowers every Wednesday, volunteer Rich Suval of Bedford signed up to retrieve the flowers from Trader Joe’s and deliver them to CDHH. Osher and volunteer Alan Wichlei (also of Lexington) agreed to back up Suval when he was unavailable.
Volunteer Barbara Hopland of Lincoln joined the CDHH flower team about four years ago. She and Swaim continue to lead the team and each week prepare about two dozen arrangements for display throughout the house. (Swaim, who has been on leave since November due to an accident, said she misses brightening up CDHH with flowers and looks forward to returning soon.) From spring until fall, they also bring in flowers from their own gardens.
Other volunteers ensure the bouquets look fresh throughout the week by watering them and removing drooping flowers. When Hopland and Swaim arrive on Wednesday morning, vases cleaned by CDHH volunteers await their floral arrangements.
Sometimes when extra flowers are available after all vases have been filled, the volunteers will give some to staff members, and to patients and families who request them.
“To be able to give and bring joy to these people is a real treat for all of us,” said Swaim. “It’s a labor of love by so many people and organizations.”
Funeral homes in the Danvers area are the primary source of flowers inside the Kaplan Family Hospice House (KFHH). The Children’s Center for Communication / Beverly School for the Deaf also donates flowers every other week and one of their students assists with arranging and placing bouquets throughout the house.
Lead volunteer flower arranger Kathe Hyland is a retired special education teacher from Danvers. Her mother had end-of-life care at KFHH in 2008, and Hyland wanted to give back as a volunteer.
“I took the volunteer training and visited some patients in their homes,” Hyland recalled. “I felt drawn to the Kaplan House, but all front desk volunteer slots were filled. I called some funeral homes to see if families would consider donating flowers that otherwise would have been left at the cemetery or thrown out after the funeral, and in 2010, I started tending to flowers as they arrived at KFHH.”
Hyland, who is the granddaughter of an estate landscaper and tends to flower gardens at her home, has no set volunteering schedule. She comes to KFHH when Volunteer Coordinator Fran Clements calls, depending on the flower deliveries from funeral homes and the condition of existing flower arrangements that need to be freshened.
When tending to a delivery, she typically spends about three hours pulling arrangements apart, placing flowers in smaller vases, and setting them on tables in common spaces, such as the lobby, hallways, chapel, dining area, and nurses’ stations. Other KFHH volunteers freshen flower arrangements in between Hyland’s visits.
About 10 years ago, Hyland joined the Danvers Garden Club, which maintains KFHH’s Garden of Remembrance and the planters at the house entrance and outside of patient rooms. “I’ve picked up some tips about how to keep flowers looking fresh and attractive. It comes with practice,” she said.
She checks with nurses before offering to place any extra bouquets in patient rooms to ensure it would be appropriate. And, like distribution of extra flowers at CDHH, she’ll sometimes surprise staff members with a floral thank-you.
“It is a little bit of happiness and comfort for people in difficult times,” Hyland said.
About the author
Lisa Conti is Senior Marketing Communications Specialist at Care Dimensions and manages its Voices of Care blog.
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Since 1978, Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice of the North Shore, has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.