As she arranges mixed blooms of seasonal farm-grown flowers, such as dahlias and mums in autumn, Melanie Harrington honours her late mother.
The CEO and creative director of Dahlia May Flower Farm in Quinte West also, through her creations, brings cheer to long-term care home residents from Port Hope to Napanee and areas in between.
During the past two-and-a-half years, the Stockdale Road farm has delivered about 3,000 bouquets throughout the spring and summer, and more than 10,000 plants at Christmas time, to these residents.
Harrington started the initiative during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and has kept it going since.
“My mom, who passed away in 2019, was a resident in various long-term care facilities for over 25 years, so I spent my childhood visiting long-term care homes,” Harrington told Quinteist.
“I knew first-hand how lonely those homes can feel for residents who don’t have frequent visitors, and I knew how devastating it would be for those residents to lose all access to visitors and family, during (the 2020 lockdowns). Many seniors struggle with loneliness, and I knew being cut off (from) the outside world — albeit for their own safety, of course — would compound that feeling,” she explained.
Harrington said she wanted to be able to do something to help, to offer a connection point from the outside world, and to show residents that their communities hadn’t forgotten about them.
“Our business builds community and spreads joy through flowers so it seemed fitting to rally our community together for an opportunity to spread joy in long-term care homes.”
The program to bring flowers to long-term care home residents had a modest beginning. Dahlia May’s first delivery consisted of 60 arrangements for Trent Valley Lodge in Trenton, where her mom had been a resident for five years before she passed away.
“Word spread. Our community wanted to get on board and as the community engagement spread, so did the program.” Dahlia May Flower Farm’s catchment area has expanded as far north as Marmora and as far south as Prince Edward County.
“Connecting to the community, and giving back, has always been one of the core values of our business,” Harrington noted.
“Growing flowers offers us a beautiful way to connect with our community and seeing the absolute joy it brings to the residents who receive these bouquets is all the encouragement we need to continue this work. It’s incredibly rewarding, and emotional, to be able to brighten the days of so many people, who truly need it.”
Harrington recalled how the first delivery for Trent Valley Lodge resulted in tears being shed by staff as they received the blooms. “Knowing how much these flowers mean to both the staff and the residents at the home is such a reminder of how important and meaningful small gestures can be in the community,” she said.
“On a personal level, running a program like this feels like a beautiful way to honour my own mom and keep her presence with me. Her memory has allowed us to make an impact in the community, which feels very special.”
Dahlia May’s ability to provide flowers to residents in long-term care is directly tied to the community support and encouragement it receives from customers and community members. Participants contribute the wholesale price of each bouquet — $14 per mason jar of mixed blooms — and Harrington and her team look after the costs of growing, harvesting, arranging, and delivering the flowers to residents.
Dahlia May also delivers fresh bouquets to every resident at Hospice Quinte weekly at its own cost.
“Recipients of these bouquets receive mason jars of mixed blooms of seasonal farm-grown flowers, including tulips and ranunculus in the spring, sunflowers, zinnias and more in the summer, and dahlias, mums and more in the fall. Every December we offer our community the opportunity to sponsor potted kalanchoe plants to send to residents in long-term care, to make sure these folks all receive a holiday gift,” she noted.
To sponsor a jar of flowers for a resident in long-term care, visit Dahlia May’s website or call 613-403-5055.
“Every contribution sends a bouquet to a resident in a nursing home or long-term care home,” Harrington said.