Volunteers deliverflowers and friendship



PETAL POWER—Betty Irwin, left, receives a bouquet that brightens her day from Compassionate Care employee Analyn Bernardo. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

PETAL POWER—Betty Irwin, left, receives a bouquet that brightens her day from Compassionate Care employee Analyn Bernardo. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

On a recent Thursday morning on a quiet street near Conejo Community Park in Thousand Oaks, a trio of volunteers from Hospice of the Conejo met at a residential care facility with a basket full of flowers in hand. The three women visited the patients inside, holding their hands and stroking their arms as they said hello and gave out small bouquets arranged with fragrant pink peonies and velvety white irises.

The group was delivering the blooms as part of the hospice’s new Friends and Flowers program. Stores like Trader Joe’s donate their unsold floral arrangements to the Thousand Oaks-based nonprofit, which rebundles them into bouquets for patients in board-and-care homes, assisted-living facilities and Los Robles Regional Medical Center. They also accept flowers from weddings and events.

Hospice volunteer Judy Bader said the program, which launched in April, was created as a means to regularly visit patients with life-limiting illnesses and to leave a happy, colorful reminder that they are loved.

“The flowers are a conduit to conversation,” the Thousand Oaks resident said.

The proof is in the pudding, or the peonies, as the case may be.

Once a volunteer handed a bouquet to Gordon “Steve” Stevenson, the 97-year-old England native began to reminisce about the rose garden he once tended outside his home.

“I had dozens of varieties,” the retired concert pianist said. “Roses are my favorite, but these are nice, too.”

Stevenson lives in a home run by Compassionate Care Residence RCFE, a company owned by Kathie Flood and her husband, David.

Flood is a massage therapist who opened her first assisted-care home to take care of her own grandmother. Grandma Betty still lives in one of Flood’s facilities near Wildwood Regional Park, and the dutiful granddaughter said making sure her residents stay socially engaged is a top priority in their care.

“These little visits make all the difference in the world,” she said.

Lorraine Arcuri is a 93-year-old mother of seven and grandmother of “dozens.” She said the flowers were lovely and described the hospice volunteers as angels.

“Mother Nature does a good job,” she said. “And the girls, I think they’re an absolute wonder.”

Hospice of the Conejo is a volunteer hospice and grief support center that has been serving patients and families facing terminal illness for 41 years.

Hospice volunteer Heather Toole said simple ways of serving others, like dropping off some flowers, can make a big impact.

“There’s a lot of goodwill out there and little things like this create a ripple effect,” she said. “Doesn’t this give you hope when you see the love of people?”

Visit hospiceoftheconejo.org.