Parish flowers for seniors project is growing
By Josh Tng
Photo Caption: Volunteers distribute flowers donated by Art Knapp, to local seniors (Josh Tng / The B.C. Catholic).
What started as a small project to bring flowers to seniors has blossomed into a successful endeavor across the Tri-Cities.
“We launched Easter Flowers as a way of bringing to life our commitment to respect life until its natural end,” said Terry O’Neill, the project’s coordinator as well as a parishioner of St. Joseph’s Parish, Port Moody, and a Coquitlam city councillor.
“We wanted to show the sick and elderly that they are loved and valued. We also wanted to demonstrate to our fellow parishioners and to the community at large that we put our beliefs into action.”
The project originated 20 years ago at St. Joseph’s, when O’Neill was inspired by the weekly Prayer for the Reverence for Life to bring flowering plants and hand-made greeting cards to senior patients at Eagle Ridge Manor. The Easter flowers were donated by Wim Vander Zalm, owner of Art Knapps, and distributed by a small number of volunteers.
Last year, Vander Zalm asked O’Neill to consider expansion. “In these troubled times, people need to see that there is still love and caring in the world,” Vander Zalm told him.
O’Neill worked with the newly minted pro-life group Life Compass to spread word of the project, and dozens of volunteers rose for the occasion to deliver plants and cards alike to 500 seniors in four different residences. Other parishes also joined in the project: St. Clare of Assisi, Coquitlam; St. Luke’s, Maple Ridge; and St. Patrick’s, Maple Ridge.
Sandra Dulong, St. Clare’s coordinator for the project, delivered about 80 plants and cards to Dufferein Care Centre in Coquitlam. ““It’s all about giving back to our seniors, who have given us so much – to give them a little more comfort at Easter,” she said. “We need to tell them that we value their lives as much as we value our own.”
Britt Bright, the St. Luke’s coordinator, agreed. “We did this in order to show that elderly people, at the end of life, are as important as our young people.” Her group delivered 150 plants and cards to residents of Baillie House in Maple Ridge.
For Anna Tillotson, a volunteer from St. Patrick’s, and her husband Mark, the project offered personal comfort. “Mark’s father was in a care home last year before he passed away, and we could see what a positive effect a visit had on the residents. It just brought them so much joy.” They passed out more than 200 plants and cards to residents of Maple Ridge Seniors Village.
“The project has been a great success, allowing individuals and families to volunteer, bringing good cheer to the elderly, supporting care-home staff, and generally giving our Easter weekend even greater significance,” O’Neill said. “In truth, we end up getting more than we give. It’s very fulfilling to see what a positive effect we can have, not only on the residents, but also on the staff.”
He credited Vander Zalm for supplying the plants that allowed the project to expand. “Wim has been my partner in this project from Year 1. His genorisity, his support, and his commitment have been absolutely vital in making our Easter Flowers program the success that it has become.”