For the past five months, Westerlay Orchids has been in a giving mood.
The Carpinteria based floral company has been handing out orchids as part of its 100,000 Orchid Challenge for five months, and on Wednesday it delivered it’s final batch of orchids to Gardens on Hope, an 89-unit housing complex for the elderly in Santa Barbara.
“It’s catching me a little bit in an emotional place, kind of unexpectedly,” Toine Overgaag, owner of Westerlay, told the News-Press.
“It was just another day on my calendar, but now that I am here, and I am recalling the beginning of this of where we were and how that felt and to cap it off here locally at this assisted living facility that has just opened, and to be able to see and interact with the residents, it brings it back to how much connection and joy we brought to people in this.
“It’s a very simple thing that we’re doing.”
Residents at the housing complex walked through the lobby with smiles on their faces as they passed by the orchids.
At the start of the challenge, Westerlay delivered orchids to frontline workers. Mr. Overgaag recalled how shocked they were by his donations.
“I asked how many employees are at the hospital and they said like 2,500, so I said, ‘Great, 2,500 it is,’ and they’re like you’re kidding,” Mr. Overgaag recalled with a smile.
“Those interactions with people were really awesome and I had a couple of people reach out… and there were dozens, if not more people, who sent us letters, sent us emails, called out offices to say thank you.
“This made a difference for me personally and reminded me that the people care and I am connected to other people in this community.”
Helping Westerlay Orchids accomplish their task was The Dream Foundation’s Flower Empower program.
Valerie Banks, who is the program’s coordinator, was in it from the start.
Ms. Banks said at the beginning of the pandemic, people told her to stay at home and avoid the virus as much as possible due to her age. That didn’t last long.
“I couldn’t donate money, so it gave me a purpose to do something for people that really is so simple,” Ms. Banks said.
The Flower Empower program helped deliver 16,008 Orchids following Wednesday’s final delivery, a number Ms. Banks was very proud of.
“It meant a lot to do this because we delivered to Santa Maria all the way to Thousand Oaks, so we reached out to people that we would never be able to normally reach out to,” Ms. Banks said.
One of the moments that stood out to her was when she helped deliver flowers to Ventura County Medical Center.
“I had a van full of flowers and they clapped for me. They were waiting for me and that was the best part. They had all just finished probably a 12-hour shift and they have people going into work and coming out of work and there I was taking them in and they were so thankful,” Ms. Banks said with a smile.
Now that this project is over, Mr. Overgaag hopes to make this a tradition.
“It’s something we have been talking about. For this quarter, we want to make a game plan to increase our giving and our engagement but there are opportunities out there and we want to do them as best we can,” he said.
“This opened our eyes to what’s possible and the effect we could have and that means a lot.”