As Courtney Frost stood Saturday in a cold Walden Avenue warehouse, sorting bunches of roses, lilies, daisies and carnations into buckets of water for the 27th annual Hospice Buffalo Spring Bouquet sale, she thought of her grandfather, who used to read her “Beauty and the Beast” and make chocolate chip pancakes.
“It’s just a good place to help,” said Frost, still grateful for the good times she had watching TV with her grandfather from his hospice bed.
Her mother, who was counting bouquets, said they began helping with the flower sale in appreciation for his good care.
“We all make it a priority,” said Shelly Frost.
In the years since Al Frost died, his family has made a point of joining about 200 volunteers who help out with the annual sale. Many of them have made a tradition of showing up on the weekend before the sale to unpack flowers trucked in from Mexico.
Starting Wednesday, some 33,000 bouquets – priced at $8 and $30 each will be sold throughout Erie County at First Niagara bank branches, florists, hospitals, office buildings and some Wendy’s and Dunkin Donut outlets. The sale is expected to raise about $300,000.
Cathy McGovern and her husband, Mike, owners of Trillium’s Courtyard Florist in Amherst, began organizing the annual sale 26 years ago because of their own good experience with hospice care. When her father-in-law was dying at home, a hospice worker helped ensure that everyone spent time with him.
“We were so touched,” McGovern said.
The McGoverns got the idea for the sale after Mike listened to an address by a hospice official during a Rotary Club meeting.
That first year, Cathy enlisted 16 florist friends to help. Now an entire field in Mexico is devoted to growing blooms for this sale, which has raised $4.1 million in the past 26 years
“It’s the time of year when flowers are just a great thing to have,” Cathy McGovern said, standing by stacks of boxes and beaming as people carrying buckets of flowers passed her.
At a nearby table, Eileen Kowal said helping assemble the bouquets has become a tradition with her family, too.
As she worked, she considered combinations of flowers – red roses, yellow sunflowers and pink lilies – and chose favorites.
“I go through and hope I find one when I’m out there buying them,” Kowal said.
At about noon, Kowal’s table was cleared and they had finished their task – trimming flower stems and filling each bucket with 15 bouquets set to go to sale sites. The team’s speed drew a compliment as the fastest in the room and was compared to an assembly line.
“You know they’re going to brighten someone’s day,” said Meghan Piccirillo, Kowal’s granddaughter. “Who doesn’t like getting flowers?”