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Downingtown’s Petals Please recycles wedding and funeral flowers into free bouquets for lonely seniors

Downingtown’s Petals Please recycles wedding and funeral flowers into free bouquets for lonely seniors

A table filled with finished bouquets made by Petals Please volunteers at Downingtown United Methodist Church. TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer This Chester County nonprofit rescues and repurposes beautiful blooms from weddings, funerals, corporate events, and other occasions.

Volunteers pick up the donations, disassemble the sprays and centerpieces, trim the blossoms, and create teacup bouquets and other small arrangements for delivery to senior citizens like May Hiltebeitel.

“Petals Please brings so much happiness to us old folks living alone.,” Hiltebeitel said. “In fact, the only next best thing is your grandchildren coming to visit.”

Petals Please, founded in 2018, has created and delivered about 8,000 floral gifts throughout Chester County. Most of the recipients are in nursing homes, hospice care, or are Meals on Wheels clients; some have few visitors and look forward to the arrival of a volunteer bearing a bouquet. Petals Please also offers a program to provide elementary school students bouquets to give to families or friends. Beth Adams (left), 64, founder of Petals Please, creates a small bouquet of assorted donated flowers to be delivered to people in nursing homes. And not just for bouquet recipients, added Tina Sauk, a retired florist who lives in West Grove and is among 140 Petals Please volunteers: “Even though I don’t know the recipients, it doesn’t matter. The bouquet is made with happiness and given out of love.”

Adams also was inspired by the reaction of a family friend who had once been an avid gardener. “I sent over some flowers I had arranged, and he was so thankful,” she said. “He just missed his garden so much.”

Doing research online, Adams found no national organization, let alone a template for putting together a sustainable, all-volunteer flower recovery and re-purposing system. But a Northeastern Pennsylvania group was having great success with an approach similar to her idea. So she drove to Scranton, where the volunteers of Petals for Goodness Sake were “so generous and so helpful,” Adams said. “It was, OK, let’s do this.”

She began networking from home, calling friends and neighbors. “Because I worked in hospice I knew all of the nursing homes and the assisted living places, and I knew a lot of staff there,” said Adams. “Unfortunately, I knew a lot of funeral directors.” Petals Please volunteer Don Adams, 70, of Downingtown, with a finished tray of bouquets to be delivered to a nursing homes for distribution to residents. In July 2018, a volunteer picked up the first donation and returned ”with so many flowers in her SUV you couldn’t even see her.”

Amelia Wondrasch especially enjoys that task. A 15-year-old student at Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square whose family is close to the Adamses, she has been a volunteer pretty much from the beginning.

As has been the case in pretty much every aspect of life these days, the pandemic disrupted the work of Petals Please, too. Flower donations from stalwart sources such as funeral homes, banquet halls, and other event spaces dried up. Schools and churches closed and care facilities […]

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