Tina Galloway carefully slipped a rose stem into a vase and adjusted it just so.
“Oh nice,” she said. “How nice.”
Galloway’s fingers are busy this morning. She is one of a few dozen volunteers who gather twice a week to assemble colorful, uplifting bouquets of flowers for strangers.
“It’s a feel-good thing,” said retired florist Joan Pauwels. “Not many people can spend the hours that we do playing with flowers.”
The group, called Random Acts of Flowers Tampa Bay, has been collecting donated flowers and recycling them for people in homeless shelters, nursing homes and hospitals for three years. The Florida branch, which meets in Dunedin, is one of five RAF locations across the nation.
“Am I an expert?” Dell Kosfeld asked aloud. “No, I just love doing it.”
The all-volunteer group is made up of retired professional florists and novices alike, all working elbow-to-elbow with sick folks in mind. Each bouquet is handed out personally by a member of the group. The Florida chapter surpassed the 35,000 bouquet mark earlier in October.
“We just want to make you smile,” said Galloway as she walked through the halls of Mease Dunedin Hospital Tuesday afternoon. She says most patients are surprised to hear that the flowers are given out for free.
“I’ve given flowers to people where they started crying,” she said. “Someone thought of them that day.”
The group gathers flowers from local donators on Mondays and Wednesdays and then arranges and distributes them on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. Flowers come from weddings, memorial services and business partners, like Publix Supermarkets.
“This is so much fun,” said Janette Donoghue, RAF Tampa Bay’s development manager. “It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.”
The group is always taking donations for future bouquets.