Kelley Bishop’s cart rumbles toward her white SUV parked outside the Ray Hickey Hospice House in Vancouver.
Bishop, a 57-year-old Vancouver resident, loads buckets of flowers onto a cart before rolling them inside. Almost every Wednesday morning for about the last two years, Bishop makes an hour round-trip drive to Portland to get flowers, and then drop flowers off for hospice patients as part of The Bloom Project, based in Portland.
“It brings me great joy,” Bishop said of the volunteer work. “You can’t wheel in buckets of flowers and not be happy. It just fills me with happiness, and I know it makes these people happy.”
The Bloom Project donates fresh flower bouquets to hospice and palliative care patients across the Portland area each week. The flowers at the Hickey House are arranged by volunteers after Bishop drops them off. Once arranged in vases, the flowers are then placed in all 20 hospice rooms.
“It gives the place a personal touch. It brightens up the room,” said Leilani Agustin, a registered nurse with Hickey House. “For some patients, the flowers are it. There isn’t any family around. It really does bring a little bit of happiness to their day.”
According to The Bloom Project website, volunteers have contributed more than 114,000 hours of time since the organization was started in 2009. The Bloom Project has also donated 233,324 bouquets in that same time frame.
Bishop found out about The Bloom Project through an area gardening club. She said she’s learned through her gardening club that plants and flowers can spark memories. Maybe smells of a purple lilac will remind someone of a flower their grandmother loved, Bishop said, or maybe it will remind them of a flower they picked as a kid.
“It conjures up smells and scents,” Bishop said. “A lot of those senses start to dull as you age, especially when you’re ill.”
Mary Lou Jensen, a 90-year-old hospice patient at Hickey House, called the flowers beautiful when she was presented with an arrangement Wednesday.
“They make you happy,” Jensen said.
Jensen has terminal cancer and said she’s been at Hickey House for about eight months. Jensen said she’s a big fan of roses, in particular, and likes to look at the flowers during the day because flowers remind her of sunshine.
Agustin said flowers generally bring a smile to patients’ faces, and the first time they’re delivered to someone it’s usually a surprise. Bishop said the volunteer work has been fulfilling for her.
“You’re bringing this beautiful, living thing into a room that’s kind of got a different theme going,” she said. “You’re bringing the outdoors in.”