Volunteer group brings small pleasures to seniors

Published: December 16, 2005 | 3033rd good news item since 2003

When the holidays come around, many of us go out of our way to help others in need. But some dedicated Napa County residents go to extraordinary lengths to help others year-round. This series of articles tells some of their stories.

Red, green, purple, pink and blue flowers are often strewn all over the mini-factory where retired women arrange bouquets for seniors.

The wilting flowers at Albertsons and Raley’s supermarkets that would have otherwise been thrown away are being donated to a charity, Small Pleasures Flowers for the Elderly, where volunteers congregate Tuesday and Thursday mornings to arrange bouquets. The bouquets range in size and variety, and deliver a fresh and sweet aroma to patients at local nursing and retirement homes.

“As you can see we trim them out and still make beautiful arrangements,” said volunteer Faye Gonzalves.

All the volunteers agreed that the best part of being involved with Small Pleasures is making new friends. “And the reward comes when you see the beaming smiles when dropping off the flowers,” said Gonzalves.

“It’s always been nice to have the flowers around the patients,” said Kathleen Tucker, a registered nurse. “I deal with many patients with dementia and to see them go from being totally unaware of what’s going on around them to all of a sudden taking notice of the flowers. The bright colors catch their attention.”

Tucker said she has them touch the flowers and feel the smoothness of the cup. They smell them and react with a smile. “It’s very nice to see them voice wonder,” she said.

Tucker said that a lot of the patients don’t have families or don’t have families that spend much time with them, and to bring them something so simple means a lot to them and to the people that come in and see the flowers.

According to volunteer Lou Connelly, the charity has been around since 2000. It got started when Margaret Niemann, the founder of Small Pleasures, saw a man from Albertsons throwing away flowers. She told the manager that if they would donate the pulled flowers to her, she would do arrangements for five local nursing homes.

At Small Pleasures the volunteers work with a greater variety of flowers than if they were at a regular florist, says Connelly.

Small Pleasures currently has 15 to 20 volunteers making arrangements. The completed bouquets are then delivered to various nursing and retirement homes. Senior centers also make small arrangements for Hospice patients.

“We are now being helped with our main expenses from donations received from the various agencies that receive the bouquets,” said Connelly. In January 2004 the group received a generous donation from the Napa Kiwanis Club. The donation helped defray some of the costs connected with the move of the operation this year.

While decorating the bouquets, volunteers engage in conversations about what’s going on in the community, making it a complete social experience.

According to the women it is very common to speak about issues with their spouses. “For those who have a husbands, we’ll talk about what he did or didn’t do and what he expects,” said Gracie Geide, a volunteer. “But it’s all just good natured.”

“We pretty much talk about everything. With all these women together we don’t know where its going to go,” said Helen Johnson.

Being part of Small Pleasures doesn’t require any professional florist experience. The women rely on their intuition and personal creativity. But, Geide said, being a hair dresser for 34 years has helped. “It’s fun to do these flower arrangements. It’s good therapy. We come in a bad mood and leave in a good mood,” she said.

Those interested in becoming a part of Small Pleasures can call 254-7629.

“We are always happy to welcome new volunteers, to arrange bouquets, pick up flowers or delivery of arrangements,” said volunteer Francois Bowlty.

Published in Volunteer
See also: www.napavalleyregister.com
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