Among the businesses participating in the big-hearted flower giveaway on Oct. 24 is a florist partnering with a mental health foundation to raise awareness and spread kindness, a shop owner honoring unsung heroes in her community, and a high school teacher and his students interested in horticulture careers.
After a successful Petal It Forward event last year, Eastern Floral, a shop in Grand Haven, Michigan, will partner again this year with local nonprofit Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. In 2017, Kiersten Schulte, the shop’s corporate relations director, surprised the co-anchors with flowers live on air during Wood-TV 8’s morning show, “24 Hour News 8 Daybreak.”
The segment started by citing statistics about the number of teens who have a mental health issue and led into an interview with the foundation’s executive director. As she discussed the foundation’s programs, and how to identify when someone might have a problem, Schulte walked on set and delivered flowers to co-anchor Casey Jones, who appeared genuinely surprised, and pleased. Schulte then explained to viewers the connection between Petal It Forward and the foundation’s efforts.
Schulte said Eastern Floral chose to work with the foundation because its mission dovetails with Petal It Forward’s goal of spreading happiness. For example, the foundation has a campaign called “be nice.” “We see the positive impact day in and day out when we make our floral deliveries,” Schulte said. Partnering with the foundation for Petal It Forward “focuses on the fact that you are taking the time to notice other people, reaching out and starting a conversation, and empowering yourself and others with the happiness a smile and flowers can bring,” she said. “Petal It Forward is a great reminder for us to notice someone who may be struggling with their mental health and figuring out how you can help.”
Eastern Floral plans to give away up to 3,000 premade bouquets downtown in Grand Haven, Grand Rapids and Holland, and in its store or from its drivers.
In Lafayette, Indiana, Paula Davis, owner of Blooms and Petals Fresh Flowers & Events, is accepting nominations via Facebook, Instagram and email of unsung heroes in the community — “everyday people who do extraordinary things,” she said. “I wanted to recognize them and also encourage others in the community to do the same,” Davis said. “You don’t have to be popular or have a lot of money to make a difference.”
She’s looking for volunteers or paid professionals who have helped veterans, the elderly, youth, animals, the environment or in other areas. Blooms and Petals will present floral bouquets to the chosen nominees at its annual open house on Oct. 19, to which she will invite the media. Davis said it’s easier to get people out to the shop on a Sunday afternoon. But she also plans to offer discounted flowers for sale on Oct. 24, so customers can celebrate and give bouquets to the unsung heroes in their own lives.
And in Woodbury, Connecticut, Erick Birkenberger, who teaches ornamental horticulture at Nonnewaug High School, makes Petal It Forward part of his lesson plans. The 25 students handing out 400 carnations at their school for last year’s Petal It Forward saw first-hand the positive effect flowers have on people.
“It is an important lesson about giving versus receiving,” Birkenberger said, “and also the idea that a little gesture, in this case giving flowers, can start a ripple effect, not knowing when it ends.”
The students plan to expand their Petal It Forward event this year beyond school grounds. They must conduct their Petal It Forward event before Oct. 24 because Birkenberger and some students will be attending the National Floriculture Career Development Event in Indianapolis.
Support in every state, and as many cities as possible within each state, is critical to the success of Petal It Forward from a public relations standpoint, said the Society of American Florists Vice President of Marketing Jennifer Sparks.
“The more florists we have participating on October 24, the better chance of national news coverage and social media posts promoting flower power,” she explained. “We need to know where local events are happening so that we can tell the media, and so you can tell your local media that you are part of an effort happening nationwide.”
To notify SAF of your event, complete the Petal It Forward Participation Form at safnow.org/PIFform.
SAF provides resources to help member florists Petal It Forward, including planning timelines, tips on where and when to stage a giveaway, talking points, T-shirt and flower card templates and more at safnow.org/petalitforward.
Christy O’Farrell is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.