Brooklyn Eagle: Brooklyn nonprofit recycles flowers to spread joy

On a Thursday morning inside a Plymouth Church vestibule, a couple dozen volunteers in pollen-dotted black T-shirts filled their hands with adopted flowers, creating color-coordinated bouquets, trimming their stems and dropping them in miniature pots decorated with stickers that read “BloomAgainBklyn.”

The flowers had been through this once before — celebrated alongside a happy couple on their wedding day or sat on conference room tables as decoration in a corporate meeting. They would have been thrown to the trash, until they fell into the hands of the Brooklyn nonprofit.

Bloom Again Bklyn is the only nonprofit in New York that takes flowers that would ordinarily be thrown out and repurposes them as a way to uplift people who may be feeling isolated.

The group’s founder, Caroline Anderson, led the Plymouth Church session, overseeing the creation of about 250 arrangements. That day, the floral collections were headed for Raices Senior Center, Cobble Hill Health Care, the Young Women’s Christian Association of Brooklyn and NYC Health, Hospitals/McKinney and Dock Street School.

The founder of Bloom Again Bklyn Caroline Anderson, right, helps pack arrangements for delivery. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
The founder of Bloom Again Bklyn Caroline Anderson, right, helps pack arrangements for delivery. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

“We are a mission-building organization,” Anderson said. “We bring communities together through the repurposing of beautiful flowers and arrangements.”

Specifically, the flowers go to homebound seniors, survivors of trauma and homelessness, and children, amongst other recipients in need. In the more than four years of its operation, Bloom Again Bklyn has diverted more than a million flowers that would otherwise be headed to waste.

A volunteer puts the final touches on an arrangement. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
A volunteer puts the final touches on an arrangement. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

Several scientific studies have found there are significant health benefits of flowers. Rutgers University conducted a 10-month study on the emotional impact of flowers and found a large percentage of 100 seniors who participated reported a reduction in depression after receiving floral gifts.

“The results are significant, because as our nation grows older and life becomes more stressful, we look for easy and natural ways to enhance our own lives and the lives of our aging parents,” said Jeanette Haviland-Jones, who conducted the study. “Now, one simple answer is right under our noses.”

Members of the Raices Senior Center choose their arrangements. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
Members of the Raices Senior Center choose their arrangements. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

The organization also teams up with other community groups and schools to teach flower-arranging workshops.

“The purpose of working with the children in the schools is to team build,” Anderson said. “They can become change agents because they study that curriculum by just creating a beautiful arrangement and giving it to somebody.”

Members at the senior center bond over their new plants. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
Members at the senior center bond over their new plants. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

Anderson’s visual background, including 20 years heading Scholastic Publishing’s visual content team, where she regularly did photo shoots of flowers, led her to the idea. After her retirement, the 69-year-old Carroll Gardens resident learned about flower arranging from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and eventually took the idea of repurposing to Donna Whiteford, who Anderson says was key to helping launch the nonprofit.

They started the project with a model partner, Cobble Hill Health Care Center, and grew from there.

Bloom Again Bklyn volunteers pose with members of Raices Senior Center. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
Bloom Again Bklyn volunteers pose with members of Raices Senior Center. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

Still, Anderson says Bloom Again is nothing without its volunteers, who come from countries around the world and often link up with the group through New York Cares, a volunteering organization.

They produce over 1,000 arrangements a month and deliver them immediately after, but Anderson and Whiteford hope to raise enough funds at their upcoming Spring Fling to produce even more. They plan to meet more often and refrigerate the flowers to distribute them at later dates.

About two dozen volunteers fill a vestibule of Plymouth Church to make flower arrangements. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
About two dozen volunteers fill a vestibule of Plymouth Church to make flower arrangements. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

The fundraiser will be held at Plymouth Church on May 7. It will of course be decked-out in flower installations. There will also be a flower crown bar for guests, cocktails decorated with flowers and a singer from Carnegie Hall to sing The Flower Duet and La Vie En Rose.

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