Flowers are a wonderful way to make an event more festive, but have you ever wondered what happens to the arrangements once the celebration is over? Shannon Haldeman did and decided that instead of allowing the flowers to go to waste, they should be used to bring even more joy to deserving organizations.
“In 2018, Shannon attended a wedding where the couple encouraged everyone to take flowers home, because they were just going to be thrown away otherwise,” explained Ellen Gaus, president of Scent with Love. “Shannon was working for a healthcare system and decided to take them to work to cheer up her coworkers and the patients and families. Their reaction was so wonderful that she wondered if it was possible to do this type of thing again.”
Haldeman began seeking out opportunities to repurpose wedding and event arrangements and put together a community of volunteers willing to pick up the flowers and deliver them to hospitals, assisted living homes, women’s shelters and more. Through Instagram and other social media as well as news stories, the organization began attracting more attention, and people now contact the group when they’ve got flowers to donate after an event.
“A lot of florists are now familiar with us and may mention it to couples getting married, and people also reach out to us when they’re holding large events,” said Gaus. “Trader Joe’s in East Liberty also provides us with extra and unsold flowers, and they have become a reliable source, providing three pickups a week.
She adds that during wedding season, volunteers may make three to five pickups in a day and last year received flowers from 75 different weddings and events.
Scent with Love has dozens of volunteers who take the time to pick up the flowers and deliver them to organizations throughout the Pittsburgh area. Wedding flowers are often taken to hospitals, senior homes and women’s shelters, while live plants may be given to families visiting children’s homes or hospitals to be given as gifts to loved ones.
“One of our volunteers took flowers to the Chartiers Valley Bus Depot so that the drivers could all have bouquets,” said Gaus. “That’s one of the things I love most about this—we not only put a lot of creativity into working out how to get the flowers, but into where they go next. It’s fun to have creative license to expand our outreach.
“People are always surprised to receive flowers, and even though it’s a small gesture, it lets them know that they’re appreciated,” she added. “I’ve seen flowers go to personal trainers at gyms, frontline workers at Giant Eagle, and to women in shelters fleeing domestic violence. If we can give them something beautiful while letting them know that someone is thinking of them, it provides a sense of comfort. They deserve this.”
Scent with Love makes it easy for people to donate flowers, and event organizers can reach out days or months in advance of an event to make the arrangements. “We want it to be a smooth experience on their end; while people may want to donate flowers, it often involves going out of their way to do it—dirtying up the car, finding a location, and driving it to wherever it needs to go. All they have to do is get in touch with us, and one of our volunteers will do it all.”
Gaus lets the volunteers know about flower donations a month in advance, and they are welcome to claim the arrangements and find a place where they can be rehomed. “We are always looking for volunteers and to expand our reach in terms of where the flowers go,” she said. “If an organization wants to receive flowers, we will work with them to ensure that they get a turn.”
To date, flowers have been delivered to the Ronald McDonald House, The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center, Bethlehem Haven Women’s Shelter, HEARTH, Shaler Area School District, North Hills Community Outreach, as well as nursing homes, shelters and various nonprofits and charities all over the region.
To learn more about Scent with Love, to donate flowers or to volunteer, visit www.swlflowers.com.