Shuttle helps flowers bloom again

By Elizabeth Floyd

RALEIGH, N.C. — After only two years in operation, the Flower Shuttle at the Raleigh Moravian Church is already on its 20,000th delivery of recycled blossoms to people in need.

TV star Oprah Winfrey is known for passing on other people’s big ideas, from her book club endorsements to the life stories of others she shares on her talk show.

And thanks to Oprah, one such recycled idea has been to recycling flowers in the Triangle since The Flower Shuttle came to town.

The Raleigh-based organization was born in March 2006 when local artist Kathy Reece read in O, The Oprah Magazine, about a New York City woman whose dismay at the city’s flower waste had led her to start a foundation to rearrange and redirect discarded blooms to those in need of a little beauty.

With $700 in seed money from the Raleigh Moravian Church, a small corps of volunteers began to provide cheer to those living with sickness, disability and poverty by delivering to them the floral leftovers of weddings, funerals and other special events in the area.

Now on its 20,000th delivery, the group has grown in leaps and bounds, riding mostly on word of mouth, a few brochures and the occasional newspaper feature.

“It’s all kind of serendipitous the way its come together,” says Sue Washburn, member of the group’s administrative team.

The Flower Shuttle makes 360 to 425 deliveries a week, with as many as 60 volunteers re-arranging used flowers in the Moravian Fellowship Hall for three hours every Tuesday morning.

These salvaged bouquets end up at a variety of nursing homes, hospitals, soup kitchens and home-care services throughout the Triangle, from Alliance of AIDS Services-Carolina and Meals On Wheels to Urban Ministries of Wake County.

Donations arrive from nearly 20 florists, groceries and flower farms. The group also benefits from special events.

A recent special session to process a massive donation from the Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival sent about 175 arrangements to a Veterans Administration Hospital in Durham.

In its two-year existence, the Flower Shuttle has depended on small grants from local civic clubs and businesses.

A $500 grant from the Raleigh Garden Club helped the group build on the Moravian Church’s early generosity.

A recent $1,000 grant from IBM will allow the organization to build a storage facility on church grounds with assistance from the church Boy Scout troop.

However the group is looking to go professional. They plan to hold their first election of officers after the first of the year and to set up an independent nonprofit in the near future.

“We are looking toward a time where we can actually employ a part-time director,” says Washburn. “It’s just getting to be a challenge for all of us.”

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