Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Flowers…are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities in the world.” The charm, hope, and warmth a personal flower arrangement offers can cast a hopeful ray on any situation. Sue Buddenbaum, founder of BigHearted Blooms, knows this firsthand. While receiving cancer treatment, along with the time she spent supporting her mother, who battled with dementia, Buddenbaum found her support system to be a great source of inspiration and strength.
Moved by the organization Random Acts of Flowers’ recycled flower delivery service for those in need, Buddenbaum decided to bring the initiative to Cleveland. She saw the gently used flowers that are discarded throughout Cleveland daily as opportunities to brighten someone’s day and to provide them with an emotional lift. Fueled by the desire to spread more hope throughout Cleveland, she devised a plan to initiate her local floral rearrangement project in May of 2018. Buddenbaum set forth on a mission to collect flowers from wedding ceremonies, corporate events, grocers, and florists for repurposing. With the help of a team of friends and dedicated volunteers, individual bouquets were soon hand delivered to residents of care facilities across the city.
Today, BigHearted Blooms has presented over 5,000 flower arrangements to those who are facing health and life challenges, including nursing home residents, veterans, cancer outpatients, women’s shelters, drug and alcohol rehab centers, and patients of hospitals and dialysis centers. On their weekly delivery runs, volunteers from all over Cleveland arrive at Trader Joe’s Woodmere to pick up the donated arrangements and hand deliver them.
“We started out with the recipients of the flowers in mind,” Buddenbaum reflects, “but the pleasant surprise is how good it makes the volunteers feel to pay it forward.”
BigHearted Blooms has recently found a new home. They have acquired a storefront and warehouse space at 5122 St. Clair Avenue, which will allow them to easily accept and store more floral and vase donations, as well as the extra room to reassemble individual bouquets.
The board of the Awesome Foundation Cleveland Chapter, which awards micro-grants of $1,000 to worthy causes and initiatives, selected BigHearted Blooms along with Building Furniture to Build Futures as recipients of its first-quarter grants. Buddenbaum plans to purchase a floral cooler with the funding to provide a quicker turnaround for the donated flowers and to extend their shelf life a few extra days.
“I think people are looking for ways to show kindness. Volunteering with BigHearted Blooms is a tangible way to give back with immediate impact,” Buddenbaum states. “It requires no training and no long-term commitment. I think that’s why we have such grassroots momentum.”
If you are interested in volunteering or donating to BigHearted Blooms, visit their website, Facebook page, or storefront. They happily accept vase, floral, and monetary donations to assist in their movement of paying it forward, one bouquet and one person at a time.