Community Connections

Random Acts of Flowers turns leftover stems into smiles

RAF volunteers deliver flowers and cheer

Ever visited a friend in the hospital to help lift their spirits and wondered, “But who is there to comfort the people with no friends or family nearby?” That’s where Random Acts of Flowers (RAF) comes in.

Random Acts of Flowers: simple mission, huge impact

RAF volunteers have delivered almost 25,000 arrangements in Silicon Valley

RAF is a nonprofit organization with a mission to, “improve the emotional health and well-being of individuals in health care facilities by delivering recycled flowers, encouragement and personal moments of kindness.” Although their mission is simple, the impact of RAF is enormous.

The Silicon Valley branch has delivered almost 25,000 arrangements to nearby hospitals and care facilities, including many in Palo Alto, such as the Veteran’s Administration Hospital, Channing House, Stanford Hospital, Sunrise Assisted Living and Lytton Gardens.

Recycling flowers from local partners including Trader Joe’s

And what’s really cool is that all of RAF’s arrangements are made from leftover flowers that would otherwise be composted, or in many cases, just thrown out.

Local partners for flower donations include Trader Joe’s at Town and Country and Michaela’s Florist. The RAF team also makes a big run to the San Francisco Flower Market every week to fill up on unused blooms that vendors are happy to give away.

Patients and caregivers love the blooms and smiles

And while RAF’s blooms are lovely, patients and hospital caregivers appreciate the smiles and words of encouragement that go along with each delivery even more. Often volunteers stop and visit patients for a few moments to offer additional support as they bring the arrangements to each room.

“Anything that supports and shows our gratitude to veterans keeps me motivated to stay involved, ” said Penny Philips, Chaplain of the Palo Alto Veteran’s Administration Hospital Hospice. “They are always deeply touched receiving flowers as a random act of kindness. Many are actually speechless as they accept the flower gift with a big smile.”

Nurses at Stanford and other local facilities love RAF for the cheer they bring to patients

History

Random Acts of Flowers (RAF) was founded in Tennessee in 2008 by Larsen Jay, who was inspired to create the organization after suffering a near-fatal accident. While Jay had many visitors to encourage him on his long recovery, he wanted to do something for all the other patients who did not have this same kind of support. RAF began expanding to new locations and opened its Silicon Valley branch in 2014.

How it works

RAF’s facility in Menlo Park is full of volunteers every on weekdays from Monday through Thursday, who collect unwanted flowers and create gorgeous arrangements in donated vases (nationally, RAF has kept more than 260,000 vases out of landfill by reusing them). In the afternoon, volunteers bring RAF flowers to local hospitals, assisted living centers and rehab facilities.

RAF transports approximately 120 arrangements on each delivery, and coordinates with nurses about who needs extra cheer and which patients cannot have flowers due to illness or allergies. Each bouquet comes with a personalized card funded through a grant from the Palo Alto Community Fund.

Cards for the RAF arrangements were made possible by a grant from the Palo Alto Community Fund

“Many of our volunteers have been with RAF for years because it’s such a rewarding experience,” said Sara Fondriast, Program Manager for RAF Silicon Valley. “RAF deliveries bring much-needed encouragement for people who are struggling with illness, injury, aging and more. The smiles we see when we arrive are priceless!”

How to get involved and support RAF
  • Donate to help RAF continuing bringing cheer to patients in Palo Alto and Silicon Valley.
  • Volunteer to help create or deliver arrangements. Individual volunteers are welcome, and RAF can also set up group volunteer activities (great team-building idea!), floral arrangement workshops and more.
Special this fall: Attend the RAF luncheon and spread smiles to  more patients in Palo Alto

Attend the upcoming GROW Luncheon on October 24, featuring the former floral designer for the White House, Laura Dowling. Laura will speak about how flowers played a role at the White House, demonstrate floral arrangement techniques and sign her new book, A White House Christmas.

All photos courtesy of RAF

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About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of GreatSchools.org , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.

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