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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Since mid-March Random Acts of Flowers has stopped its service following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s directives. Every week close to 1,500 lightly used flowers were delivered to seniors around East Tennessee before the coronavirus swept across the country.
The nonprofit collects bouquets from florists, grocery stores and funeral homes. Their volunteers help arrange the flowers and make delivers several times a week.
For now, production has stopped and no flowers are being delivered. However, the core staff members have not stopped working.
Founder of Random Acts of Flowers Larsen Jay continues to clear out dead flowers from the refrigerator at Random Acts of Flowers.
“The warehouse has been empty for about two weeks,” Jay says. “On Fridays, volunteers would be crowded into this space preparing flowers here for delivery.
“The flowers would normally come to us. We would recycle, repurpose them, take them to those senior care facilities and hospitals.”
Until they can ramp back up and bring volunteers back, old flowers are being thrown away. For now the nonprofit is idle. Many of the volunteers likely wouldn’t want to be out anyway because they’re vulnerable to COVID-19.
“Most of our facilities that receive flowers from us are on lockdown, and they are not allowing any visitors at all,” Executive Director Mick Reed said.
“It’s just that is the age range that has a high probability. Most of our volunteers are older and retired. It’s just something we don’t want to be bringing them together right now.”
Staff members have found a way to remain busy however: Getting ready to move into a warehouse.
The transition had been planned for months, but now with the shutdown moving day has been accelerated.
“Now one of the big challenges we were going to move with Boy Scout troops and fraternities people who were going to help us move all at once, but since we can’t get those people together we’re having to move one carload at a time,” Jay said.
In normal times Random Acts of Flowers is delivering recycled flowers that spread joy.
More than 121,000 flower bouquets have been delivered in Knoxville since Random Acts of Flowers started about a decade ago. Once the curve of coronavirus is flattened and the COVID-19 threat reduced, that first day will be an emotional one, Jay said.
“Every day we wake up thinking when can we get started again? And how can we help people? But now we know the people normally served are even more isolated and more lonely and really need that pick me up.”