Photo: Roger Aziz
Harnessing the Power of Flowers
It took multiple weddings and a funeral for Christine Law to realize what she needed to do. In the summer of 2014, her calendar was packed with friends’ marriage celebrations—blossom-filled occasions that got her thinking, “Where do all the flowers go after the party?” More often than not, they were thrown out. Law, then 27, was confident she could find a better use for them.
By August, the Montreal-based commercial analyst had a plan: convince couples and companies hosting events to donate their bouquets, which she would pick up and deliver within 48 hours to seniors across the city. She was drawn to the prospect of bringing beauty into the lives of older people—and finding opportunities to forge relationships with them. Having lived with her grandparents between the ages of seven and 14, when her beloved grandfather died, Law knew how valuable an intergenerational connection could be. She drew on her experience volunteering with non-profits in order to set up her own organization, which she called Floranthropie.
The inaugural delivery—20 tropical arrangements—was to a long-term care facility in Montreal’s east end, where a friend’s mother worked. Not having enough bouquets for all 150 residents, Law asked the staff to provide a list of patients who needed cheering up the most, whether it was because of a rough patch or a lack of visitors. “The first woman I approached thought it was a mistake, that the flowers couldn’t possibly be for her,” says Law. “I said they were a gift, and we talked for a half-hour.”
One man followed Law around, gazing at the blooms, even though he remained silent. “He wasn’t on my list, but I offered him a bouquet and he brought me to see his room,” she says. “There were floral decorations and artificial flowers everywhere. That’s when I really understood that all kinds of people, men included, like something lovely to look at.”
In addition to long-term care facilities, Floranthropie focuses on seniors’ residences and community groups dedicated to the elderly. Laëtitia Thélème is a volunteer coordinator for Les Petits Frères, an non-profit organization that aims to help isolated elders who don’t have a support system. The group receives monthly deliveries of a dozen or so bouquets from Floranthropie, then redistributes them. “Our motto is ‘flowers before bread,’” says Thélème. “We aren’t focused on primary care, but rather on nourishing the spirit. Floranthropie helps us do that. It’s amazing what a big difference a small bouquet can make.”
Those small bouquets are possible thanks to a seven-person crew comprising mainly Law’s family and friends, including her close pal, Diana Ocvirek. “The act of offering a flower is a symbolic one—it can represent gratitude, joy, love or friendship,” Ocvirek says. “It’s also a simple gesture that provides hope.”
In the beginning, most of Floranthropie’s donations came through word of mouth: friends of friends who were getting hitched, a Concordia University staffer who had organized an event for the school. These days, Law receives inquiries from strangers via her non-profit’s Facebook page and has connected with corporations and flower wholesalers. The group was finally able to buy a delivery van last fall and is currently looking for rental space. (Previously, Law used her car for transport, or booked a truck if necessary; flowers were often stored at her apartment.) Law hopes to expand Floranthropie nationally, but at this point is happy to be able to oversee each delivery personally.
“One of my cousins recently told me she thinks our grandfather would have been proud of what I’m doing,” she says. “He’s guided me—it’s as if he’s been following me this whole time. Flowers are lovely to look at, but more importantly, they’re a tool to kick-start a conversation and foster a connection. That’s my real priority.”
These great Canadians are making an impact within their own communities.