As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread through the U.S. and beyond, many events — from weddings to corporate parties to religious ceremonies — have been postponed or canceled in order to practice safe social distancing.
This has left florists across the country with a surplus of fresh cut flowers that were intended for these events, many of which have a very short life span. But while some businesses have been forced to throw out their abandoned blooms in these difficult times, others have gotten creative — repurposing the greenery to spread a little joy and positivity in their communities.
DFW Event Design, an events company based in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, took several trucks full of flowers from now-canceled events and used them to “flower bomb” Philadelphia’s typically tourist-filled Rittenhouse Square on March 18.
Founder Katie Robinson and her team brought more than 2,000 stems from their warehouse to create an enormous floral display in the square, handing some sprigs out to the public along the way.
Robinson told PEOPLE that she was inspired to pull off the surprise after seeing an online video of a flower market in the Netherlands — the same market from which she and many other Pennsylvania-based florists source their blooms — forced to dispose of their unwanted flowers in a parking lot.
“Having coolers full of flowers and greenery myself, I knew I couldn’t throw them out and I needed to make sure they were still used to bring joy and smiles to people’s faces. We all need that right about now,” Robinson says, noting that she has had around 20-25 special events canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The public response made it all worth it, Robinson says. “The tears, emotions, smiles and pure joy we brought to people was unimaginable,” she shared. “We are all going through the same thing right now and so many do not want to put on the news for the fear that there will be more negative information. This calmed anxiety, cleared headaches and truly touched so many people.”
On the same day a few states away, Sweet Root Village, a floral design company in Alexandria, Virginia, was also using their excess blooms to spread smiles.
Lauren Anderson and Rachel Bridgwood, the co-founders, decided to host a fundraiser after finding themselves left with thousands of extra flowers due to numerous cancellations. They set up a drive-thru flower shop, where cars could line up and receive the bouquet of their choice — with all the money going to charity.
“We knew we wanted to (safely) get our flowers into the hands of those that could enjoy them, and we were also feeling the tug to help those who are struggling with all of the immediate job loss that has been cascading around us,” Anderson and Bridgwood told PEOPLE of the logic behind the drive-thru.
With the help of their team, they delivered hundreds of bouquets and displays of flowers to a line of waiting cars, keeping a safe social distance as they put displays in trunks and handed bouquets through car windows with gloved hands. Even payment, via cash app Venmo, was zero touch.
They had hoped to raise $1,500 to donate to the DC Dream Center, an organization providing meals and supplies to those who’ve come by hard times due to the virus. By the end of the day, they’d raised $7,000. They decided to hold the fundraiser a second day, with the help of other local wholesalers, and raised another $6,000, for a grand total of $13,000.
“We were so encouraged by all of the smiling faces (and many dog passengers) that came out to support the drive-thru – some even came two or three times,” said Anderson and Bridgwood. “Many people bought several arrangements to place on neighbors’ doorsteps. It goes to show how flowers truly bring joy to others, especially in times like these.”
They continued, “The event and flower industry as a whole, like so many other areas of our economy, has taken a huge hit with events cancelling and flower orders halting. We grieve for the many businesses facing extreme hardship and are hopeful for a quick and strong return of our beloved floral community.”
These two inspirational companies are not alone. Across the country, many florists are refusing to feel defeated, instead sharing joy — and, of course, flowers — during these dark times. Check out Atelier Ashley Flowers, Ponderosa and Thyme, Helen Olivia Flowers and The Floral Source on Instagram for more heartwarming stories.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.
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