INDIANAPOLIS — Sometimes, there is a vase just calling your name.
Volunteer Jen Schiff grabs a donated vase off a shelf of hundreds inside a Broad Ripple shop.
Schiff is not a professional florist, but she's been volunteering her time over the past few years with an organization called Random Acts of Flowers Indianapolis.
As she picks the perfect stems out of buckets and buckets of blooms, she tells me, "There are so many pretty flowers here, it's pretty easy to make a nice arrangement."
Schiff is one of the 400 volunteers who help get flowers in the hands of patients across Indianapolis. The organization celebrates five years in operation in Indianapolis this month.
Lindsay Potter is the program director who helps take donated flowers from partners like local florists, wholesalers, and grocery stores.
They collect the flowers that still have life in them but are no longer used after events or on shelves. Those flowers are sorted and stored at their Broad Ripple facility. Volunteers come to make the arrangements.
"That's probably the most fun part," says Potter. "The energy of our volunteers."
After the arrangements are complete, volunteers add a note for the recipient, and the flowers are loaded in the truck to be delivered to health care facilities across the community.
The flowers are surprise delivered to people seeking medical care or in nursing home facilities.
"The surprise when you knock on the door and they are expecting one thing, and you have this beautiful surprise for them, and it's a gesture from the entire community to say, ya know, you are not alone in this," says Potter. "Sometimes there are tears, you know, sometimes there's a little bit of confusion at first, but being able to make those human connections is something we don't necessarily get a whole lot of these days."
Potter says the pandemic has been incredibly isolating for people in health care facilities receiving care, and the flowers are just one gesture to show them someone cares.
The organization was founded originally by a gentleman in a hospital who noticed many patients never got visitors or deliveries, so this gentleman started donating flowers himself, and it grew to several cities.
The concept works and meets a need to recycle floral waste helpfully and make people smile.
And when they say floral waste, they mean gorgeous flowers that have days left of blooms.
"All of our volunteers, especially the first couple times they come in, are just shocked by the quality of the flowers," says Potter.
It is a team effort to get this "Random Act of Flowers" delivered to people in our community.
"We have people who do everything for us from picking up flowers from a grocery store, washing vases, doing vase drives, but also people working with the flowers, and we have people who are florists who have been working for their entire lives and we have people who have no experience whatsoever," says Potter.
As volunteer Schiff makes the arrangements, she puts a lot of thought into who may receive them.
"When you these together, you sometimes think about, I wonder whose going to receive this," says Schiff. "And who doesn't like to get flowers."
Random Acts of Flowers has delivered more than 90,000 floral arrangements to people in our community in just five years. And they are still going strong and always looking for more volunteers to sign up for a shift and help.
If you would like to learn more about how to help, visit RAFindy.org.
Lauren Casey at WRTV first reported this story.