Healing With Flowers is back up and spreading joy after shutting down operations due to the pandemic, but the ministry is in more need of volunteers than ever.

Now in its sixth year, the all-volunteer organization’s mission is to repurpose donated flowers into bouquets that are then delivered to nursing homes and hospitals.

Healing With Flowers has delivered 32,134 arrangements and recycled 33,857 vases in total, according to a white board posted in the ministry’s workspace at the LandAir warehouse where Gifts for Kids also operates.

On Monday this week, regular volunteers Vanessa Smith, Mary Stunek, Marty Copelin and Dianne Curry worked with flowers donated by Reformation Lutheran Church to create 31 arrangements for residents at Brookdale Senior Living.

“Before COVID we would usually have about 14 volunteers on a Monday, but now this is our crew,” Smith said.

“It used to be hard to move around the table,” agreed Copelin.

Smith said a couple of volunteers were missing Monday due to other commitments, but even counting them, the number is still down from before the pandemic.

“We closed down in March 2020 and didn’t start back until June (last) year. Nursing homes weren’t even taking flowers,” Smith explained. “I don’t think everybody realizes we’re still going now.”

She said donations are also down compared to before the pandemic, and now that nursing homes have resumed accepting flowers, she hopes to get back to pre-pandemic flower distributions. That used to include deliveries as far as Limestone and Jonesborough but no longer does, primarily due to a lack of available volunteers to deliver.

Healing With Flowers is now seeking volunteers both to deliver arrangements and join efforts to create them.

“This is a good number for us right now,” Smith said of the small group gathered Monday. “But we need more help in case one of us can’t be here or we get a large donation.”

The ministry is also seeking donations of flowers, which often come from local churches, grocery stores and florists, and events such as weddings or funerals. The ministry also uses and accepts donations of vases, as well as plastic and tin containers to be used as nonbreakable vases, and financial donations assist the group with purchasing other needed materials.

“We do what we can to make people happy, and we have fun, too” Smith said.

Stunek agreed.

“Have fun and share fun,” she said.

Volunteers do not need prior experience, three-year volunteer Copelin added.

“Don’t feel intimidated,” she said. “Everyone makes such beautiful things, but we will teach you anything you need.”

She said she learned through practice with the group and has developed a deeper appreciation.

“It gets in your blood,” said Curry, the most recent volunteer and a retired florist from Illinois. She said she came across Healing With Flowers on Facebook and decided to join.

“This is just so nice. The flowers get used again, and somebody else gets to enjoy them,” Curry said.

For now delivering simply entails dropping the bouquets off at their destination, as nursing homes and hospitals continue pandemic safety measures, but volunteers said they hope to also return to the pre-pandemic custom of delivering the flowers themselves and seeing the smiles they bring.

“There’s nothing like flowers to make you feel better on a day you don’t,” Stunek said, neatly summing up the ministry’s aim.

Healing With Flowers was founded in April 2015 by Cindi Laws after the local arm of Random Acts of Flowers closed. It is currently headed by Gypsy Tweed.

The mailing address for the ministry is 550 Zion Hollow Road, Afton, TN 37616, and the organization is on Facebook.

For more information or to get involved, call 423-708-4325.

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