Our first Philanthropy Report
It seems wrong to start a newsletter by saying “Happy Easter” this week of all weeks on the North Shore. And by the time you get this, Easter will be long behind us, because I’m running very late in completing this newsletter anyway. But looking forward into the future, Easter will spark painful memories for many residents of Lynn Valley, and anyone else who was in the village the day of that shocking knife attack. The outpouring of grief and flowers and condolences and support (financial and otherwise) stems from an abundance of empathy and generosity in our community, and undoubtedly the thought: “It could’ve been me.”
(Image credit: Chris Styles, Everyday Bouquets)
Did you think that? I’m sure we all did. I thought: I could’ve been delivering flowers to Delany’s in Lynn Valley Village that day. Or my husband could’ve been going to the library there, as he sometimes does. Is there not a more innocent place than a library?
One customer requested an extra bouquet that week to give to her friend, a single mom who was stabbed in the knife attack. So I made my version of a sympathy bouquet: one white rose amidst a sea of jewel-toned blooms, it signifies “a little bit of light in the darkness.” We call them Hope Bouquets.
And then I thought all of you might like one too, so I scrapped the plans for an Easter bouquet and got my hands on some of the best white roses I could find: they’re called “Avalanche” roses, they’ve been bred by Dutch growers to have massive buds that fully open in the vase. The batch I used was grown locally on Vancouver Island by Eurosa Farms, the only local commercial rose growers. So whenever I can get these roses for you all, I will.
Everyday Bouquets is growing
Since I wrote the last newsletter in February I’m so happy to report that Everyday Bouquets has grown! I’m not a one-woman show anymore, I have help, and I’m so grateful for it and enjoying the comradery, which is a mix of paid staff and volunteers (who get paid in flowers, that’s our preferred currency!) We have one paid delivery driver now, a few volunteer drivers, and two volunteer floral designers.
Every month I will profile a different team member here for you to get to know.
A big round of applause for Chris! This man has single-handedly changed my life for the better! He is our new delivery driver (on the payroll) and he now does the lion’s share of the deliveries to North Van on Thursdays between the hours of 10-3.
Let me tell you about Chris. I met him on the NextDoor app and it’s a good story about what a great community we live in:
Someone started a discussion on there about how we can all help out local restaurants during Covid by picking up our takeout orders instead of using delivery apps like Skip the Dishes and Door Dash, which takes a cut of the profit. A few people chimed in with their support and then Chris offered another view: he himself (a North Van resident) is a travel agent for Expedia, but the pandemic severely impacted his income, so to make ends meet he’s been driving for Skip the Dishes.
He stated this neutrally and matter-of-factly and what ensued was a really reasonable discussion where the first commenter said they hadn’t thought of that, and then everyone agreed we should still use food apps then. Then Chris shared that ICBC actually charges an extra $300 a month in insurance for delivery drivers who use their personal cars like himself, which is a LOT, and I thought, “I like this guy, he’s honest” and so that’s when I piped up and said I’m looking to hire a delivery driver, explained Everyday Bouquets, and offered to cover that $300 a month for him (I actually pay more than that now!) Chris contacted me and we met for coffee at Delany’s and he started delivering almost all of your bouquets the next week!
Chris is a single Dad to his son, 14-year-old Damian, who he drops off at high school before swinging by my house to get the bouquets and deliver them all before it’s time to go pick up Damian again!
Chris likes gardening, photography, tropical plants, coffee, Wildeye Brewery, and the Canucks. Before Expedia he owned his own business selling aquariums. He has a good sense of humour: “I collect family members” he joked when telling me his mom and brother moved in with him, and also his sister for a few months with her three kids while she was recovering from surgery.
He likes delivering bouquets better than Skip the Dishes because it’s less back-and-forth, he can drive the route, a big loop of North Van, and get into a groove, the houses become familiar every week and he can immerse himself in an audio training course from Expedia to keep up his knowledge on the travel industry while he drives. He just drops the bouquets on your porches, doesn’t need to knock and hand over the food. He makes slightly less money than with Skip (no tips) but he enjoys it more, and it’s daytime hours so he can still work for Skip in the evenings when it’s busier. (I am very proud to say that I pay more than Amazon pays THEIR delivery drivers!)
As promised in the last newsletter, I’m going to update you all on the charitable giving Everyday Bouquets has been able to do because of your flower subscriptions!
Since the start of the pandemic, charitable giving in Canada has declined drastically while global demand for cut flowers has increased exponentially — it’s off the charts. So thanks to all of you, Everyday Bouquets has become a sneaky little way to kill two birds with one stone! The flowers you buy from me not only fill your home with cheer, they also help local families who need an extra hand these days. So let me tell you about it all, I need a numbered list!
1. The Family Immigrating from Mexico
This was the original inspiration for Everyday Bouquets, and if you haven’t read the updates so far, go back and read all those other newsletters I’m always shoving through your mail slots!
Quick synopsis: our part-time nanny Noelia has been on a mission to bring her two children (teenagers) to join her here in Canada as she immigrates. She’s a single mom, her parents back in Mexico have been raising her kids while she works here as the breadwinner, sending money home. Last summer, despite the pandemic, she put her plans into motion and booked flights and found an apartment so her children could join her — they are here now and enrolled in school and learning English and reunited with their mother. Everyday Bouquets helped by raising money for these flights, damage deposit, school supplies, extra money for groceries, you name it!
So that brings us up to December: because of all your gift subscriptions which you bought for your loved ones, we were able to give Noelia a $1,000 Christmas bonus of grocery gift cards and cash.
Also, if you recall, at that time I was looking for another family to share childcare with for two days a week so that Noelia would have full-time work. (We only needed her — and could afford her — three days a week.) My efforts were not met with success and I was starting to fret for her. So on December 20th I pulled the trigger and told her we would employ her full-time starting in the new year. I didn’t want her to be fearful for her future, especially over Christmas. (Her kids had been asking about her employment situation and she told them, “That’s for me to worry about, not you, I’m the Mom.”)
That was the scariest business decision I’ve made yet: because the only way we were going to afford that was if I sold a whack-tonne of flower subscriptions! So I reasoned, if I have two more days of childcare a week, then that’s two more days I can grow the business — so I better get busy! And did I ever: I’ve been working full-tilt and full-time+ since January and I’m proud to say the business is covering her extra income and then some.
In February she got another bonus after Valentine’s Day plus brand new discounted Arcteryx rain jackets for all of them. (I have a hookup, who doesn’t on the North Shore, right?) Because when you don’t have a car… you need a really good coat! The children are adjusting to the weather but are cold. Noelia always wore three layers, even in July, but recently I saw her sporting bare ankles in March and communicated my shock! She smiled proudly — she’s a true Vancouverite now.
She gets (paid) sick days — as many as she needs (she’s rarely sick, but it’s usually my kids to blame when she is!) Her own children are keeping healthy and safe in their school bubble, are confident taking public transit, and in 6 short months their English language skills have exploded! I’m in awe of their progress, and able to have back-and-forth conversations with them. Their resilience and adaptability is so heartwarming to witness.
My dream is that when my children are old enough for school, that perhaps Noelia can join me in the flower business. She loves flowers too and is very creative (she has an art degree in addition to her education and business degrees, not to mention the online masters in child development she’s currently working on, in her spare time on the weekends.) But the only problem with my dream is that Noelia loves children the way I love flowers! Working with kids enlivens her mind and heart, and her dream is to open her own Spanish-immersion childcare someday. Time will tell for all of us — the problem of the duelling dreams! But she has become my best friend and I vow for us to remain connected even when my children no longer require her daily care.
2. Another North Vancouver family
In January, Everyday Bouquets made a one-time cash donation of $400 to a newly single mom here in North Vancouver, going through a family breakdown and divorce. She was scrambling to find a basement apartment for herself and teenage child and reached out to me in her attempts to find housing. She didn’t ask for money but I offered it, to help pay for her first month of rent. Initially she declined, but I badgered her to take it and eventually she accepted.
Her story surfaced many feelings for me, because I saw my own mother in her, who also went through a painful divorce when I was a teenager; she was blindsided by my father (who had joined a religious cult) and she was left caring for my brother and myself all on her own. We had housing insecurity too, and helping this woman now felt like a way of helping my own mother way back then.
My mom is gone now, long ago, she died of lung cancer when I was 24. (It’s an awful thing to watch a person die a slow death on a ventilator. Be careful out there these days.) But her favourite flower was the Forget-Me-Not, and my entire “true blue” garden is on the cusp of exploding with these dainty blue blooms all over, as they turn their tiny little flower faces towards the sun. (I’ll try to use these in the Mother’s Day bouquets this year, in honour of my Mom.)
3. Backpack Buddies
I read about this local charity in the North Shore News, which provides backpacks full of food for local children every weekend, kids whose families struggle with food insecurity. I knew instantly that Everyday Bouquets needed to support this; it’s something my brother and I sure could’ve used way back in our early teens.
There wasn’t any physical abuse in our family growing up, but there was definitely substance abuse and certainly neglect. What little money we had that should’ve been spent on food, was spent on drink. If we were lucky, Mom would win the meat raffle at the Legion, but most nights we ate dinner at our friends’ houses, or houses of families where we babysat — like every night for a year — and eventually we moved in with these two separate families as an informal foster situation that became permanent.
So Everyday Bouquets is now a monthly donor of Backpack Buddies, together we all support one kid ($60 a month on my credit card), who can now get a backpack full of food every single Friday, all because you simply buy my flowers. And as more people sign up for flower subscriptions, we’ll be able to help more kids.
I dedicated that donation to my brother Adam, who now as an adult says he always has a fridge full of food for his kids, and I reflect on my own household, with two toddlers — my husband and I are constantly jumping up and down to satisfy their constant food requests (out of their earshot we call it “Snack Bitch”…. ‘who’s on ‘Snack B’?’ we joke to each other) but I realize just how lucky we are that we can joke, many other parents out there can’t.
4. Pacific Postpartum Society
This is the organization that saved my sanity when my daughter was born 2.5 years ago and I developed postpartum depression and anxiety. I joined the North Shore support group and along with 7 other women met weekly to discuss our experiences. I’m so grateful for this organization and especially for Kerry, the compassionate group leader, and they continue to hold meetings via Zoom during the pandemic, but one bonus of the in-person meetings was the free childcare they provided so the moms could have a rare break and focus on their self-care for 90 minutes. I suspect that’s not happening now and it’s a shame, the moms aren’t getting a real break if so.
Mental health IS health, as the world is acknowledging as this pandemic wears on, and mothers especially are carrying the brunt of it. Early motherhood is unrelenting, not unlike a Covid lockdown, with no relief in sight, and my heart goes out to any woman suffering in silence, just trying to hold it together for everyone else who depends on her.
Everyday Bouquets has made a $100 donation to this group with plans for more. A portion of all upcoming Mother’s Day flower subscriptions will be donated too.
5. Lynn Valley Victim Fund
Everyday Bouquets donated $100 to this fund for the group of stabbing victims. We also donated a Hope Bouquet for the online auction which together raised over $3600 for that same fund. (The bouquet raised $45.)
6. BCG Counselling Group
We donated a 4-Week Flower Subscription ($140 value) to this online auction in March, which is a local charity that provides mental health counselling on a sliding-fee scale. (I used to be the Executive Director and my husband currently serves on the volunteer board.) If anyone needs silent auction items for other worthy local charities, hit me up! The flower subscription is a hot ticket item.
As you can see from this list…my giving is inspired entirely by my personal convictions and experiences. From afar it may seem like a random smattering but up close it comes into focus. This is why I say Everyday Bouquets helps “local families in need”…it’s a large umbrella that covers a broad category of need, of which there is so much. We’re just scratching the surface with what these little flower bouquets can achieve.
I’ve made a decision since my first newsletter in December. In that newsletter I said that someday (maybe, hopefully) I would be able to draw an income from Everyday Bouquets for myself, that “one could hope!” But now, I retract that statement. I’ve decided I’ll never draw a salary from Everyday Bouquets, that I’ll continue happily volunteering all of my time to run this little social enterprise — it’s my labour of love.
I want Everyday Bouquets to retain it’s original motive, to remain “pure of heart” (this all started as a little flower stand fundraiser in from of my house, if you remember) and frankly, there’s nothing to draw if I want to keep the prices down and the donations high! Which is exactly what I want.
When I say ALL proceeds support local families in need, I mean ALL of it.
Not 1%, not 2%… 100%
I take nothing for myself.
I hope you’ll think of that this year when contemplating a Mother’s Day gift (if that’s a consideration for you.) Moms say they don’t need anything, but secretly they just want a card and maybe some flowers (if they’re the flower type), but she’ll feel really good knowing her flowers are helping a family in need. So make your Mom proud and get her a flower subscription! The gift that keeps on giving…and gives back. Because the only thing better than one bouquet, is MORE bouquets!
Ok, there, marketing part done… back to philanthropy.
One supporter asked me recently “how can you do this as a volunteer?” Which made me think of something my husband Ben said to me the other day: “I’m really proud of you for doing this” he said about the flower biz, and I replied “I’m really proud of you for feeding us, and keeping the lights on, and paying the mortgage.” So the answer is I couldn’t do this without my husband. All good things flow from Ben, they always have. (We always joke that I was on the Ben Young Scholarship at journalism school!) Which isn’t to say money isn’t tight for us at our house, ohhh it is, but we get by, and we survived on one income when I was a full-time mom, so we can keep on doing that now too. But Ben is one of the most generous people I know. He was the first person I met who would pick up the entire tab at the bar for all of his friends! Dinner too. It’s just in his DNA. He saw it modelled by his brother-in-law Andy who does the same whenever we go visit. “Don’t worry, I got this one,” they say.
“I got this one.”
What a great sentence right?
That’s the feeling I want to impart with the donations and support that Everyday Bouquets provides to these families who just need a little extra help to get over a hump.
It’s hard accepting help. In some ways it’s so much easier to give than to receive — I know, I’ve been there. (As a teenager going to live with a new family that wasn’t my own: they converted their rec room into my bedroom.) But exactly last year when the winds of this pandemic were just whipping up, I was trying to fall asleep one night but I couldn’t relax: the news stories emerging of people in their 30’s dying of this virus made me exclaim across the pillow to Ben: “We don’t have guardians for the kids if we die!” (The next morning I begged Noelia to move in and care for them if we both ever became hospitalized. We don’t really have family here…) But it sure makes you think about your own mortality. And I also thought, if I die right now, how will I feel about my life? (Not: if I die, how will I be remembered?) No, more like: if I’m on my deathbed, about to be intibated, knowing this could be the end, would I be able to take my last breaths with calmness knowing I lived a good life? And instantly I felt: No. I think my life has been a bit too much about me. So far.
But back to volunteering: Everyday Bouquets has surprisingly attracted volunteers without me really even having to ask for them! Which is awesome, because it means we’re doing something FUN! (Arranging flowers is FUN! Flower bombing peoples doorsteps is FUN!) So I feel better asking for more volunteers when I can honestly say I’m a volunteer too.
Besides being fun, arranging flowers is also therapeutic. For me it’s been a natural extension of my gardening, where I get to work with my hands (not hold a phone, not look at a screen), and exercise the right side of my brain, the creative part that loves pairing colours and textures and creating a small thing of beauty to share with others. I’m an artist and flowers are simply my medium, whether on the canvas of my garden or in the sculpture of a vase. I’ve been gardening my way out of postpartum depression for over 2 years now and Everyday Bouquets has been like the phoenix rising from the ashes of that dark journey.
New Instagram handle:
(it’s NOT @truebluegarden anymore)
If you already followed me, nothing changes for you. But if you don’t, that’s how you can find me now.
(The true blue handle was my personal account where I documented photos from my garden until Everyday Bouquets took over my life — and Instagram account — which was not my plan by the way! I thought I was only going to run the flower bouquet fundraiser until Christmas and then switch to writing the gardening book that’s been brewing inside of me as a result of my blue flower obsession — it will be called “The True Blue Garden: An exhaustive encyclopedia of flowers in this rarest of hues” or something like that, when I get around to it! — but life doesn’t always go as you think it will and these bouquets took on a life of their own. Someday I hope to have a literary outlet for the massive repository of blue flower plant geek knowledge I have amassed in my skull!)
On this note: I just posted a series of videos to Instagram where I give a video tour of my true blue garden. If you’d like to see for yourself the tiny plot of earth where Everyday Bouquets was born, you can go check it out!
Vase Life Tips
In general, keeping your bouquets cool and out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources in your house, will extend their vase life the longest.
(Even longer than trimming the stems, from my experience, but you can certainly do that too.)
When the weather is cool, you can place your bouquet outside on a covered porch or in an unheated garage at night while you’re sleeping to prolong their vase life, and then bring them back inside to enjoy during the day while you’re awake.
Now that the weather is warming up, you can opt to put the bouquet in your fridge at night, if you have room, and just make sure any fruit is in a crisper with the vent closed. (Fruit can emit a substance as it ripens that can cause flowers to age faster, however, in my experience I find that warm temperature is a far more critical factor than proximity to fruit.)
You’ll notice that sometimes I include fruit and vegetables directly in my bouquet designs (citrus, apple, eggplant, turnip, pomegranate, green cherry tomato) and I find that the flowers last the same length of time as when the fruit is not present (I generally promise that the bouquets will last on average about a week — sometimes they last much longer, sometimes shorter, depending on the type — but typically anything longer than a week is just bonus and a sign of your added care!) And I observe that many of the famous floral designers like Ariella Chezar, Erin Benzakein, and Kiana Underwood often mix fruits in their bouquets without detrimental effect, so I will continue to do this as I receive much praise and positive feedback when I include unexpected ingredients like these in my bouquet recipes, but if you do think it’s making an impact on your flowers, simply pluck out the fruit.
But temperature is key — I once had a hydrangea last 3 weeks in my unheated garage in February! And as you may know, hydrangeas are notoriously quick to wilt because of their high water content (hydra=water), so they have proven to be very responsive to the temperature trick.
Another flower that responds well to cool temperature is hellebores. If you notice them wilting after a few days simply refill the jar with fresh cool water, trim their stems, and then place it in your fridge for a few hours — they will perk right up and give you another 3 or 4 days in the vase.
Another fun idea, as your bouquet wanes, is to bust out your bud vases and jettison any single, fresh-looking stems into those smaller vessels. These miniatures can then be spread throughout your house to enjoy elsewhere, making way for your next Everyday Bouquet to arrive! (My bud vase lives beside my coffeemaker; it gets the most screen time! Coffee is my one vice and I proudly drink it to excess.)
Some of you have already alerted me to your own garden delights which you plan to generously share with me for use in the bouquets! Iris, lilac, camellia, hydrangea, viburnum… for this I am so grateful and will take you up on it! If anyone else has floral donations to make to our cause, please reach out, monitor and notify me when your blooms are approaching their harvest time, and I’ll plan the bouquet to feature your contributions. (My mind turns to the next bouquet on Fridays and the weekend, and by Monday and Tuesday I’m out there in your gardens harvesting your stems.) Plus, anyone who donates gets a free bouquet! I’m also happy to come tour your garden in advance to survey the flowers, shrubs, filler or “garnish” you may wish to offer, as one customer once put it!
Google reviews — I think we’re at about 10 reviews, when we get to 20 I’m going to spoil you all with fancy, expensive blooms! A HUGE thank you to those of you who took the time to write those reviews already, it means so much to me.
Jars — running low, so if you can rustle up your empties and place on your doorstep for your next delivery day, that’s appreciated. Any others of similar shape and size you have kicking around are warmly welcomed into rotation!
Newsletter — I’m switching to black & white printing for these to save money. I’ve asked a local print shop to sponsor our colour printing but until that’s confirmed, sorry, black and white for now, and I’m also going to be sending out the newsletter by email which will allow for colour photos of bouquets and staff. I’m a writer, so I love paper and I think there’s value in the printed written word, it’s a tactile experience, but the costs are adding up for my little business, so I will be gradually shifting to email for these newsletters (you can opt-out or unsubscribe when you receive your first one if you prefer) but I vow to only send it once a month, and to provide a narrative form that offers you some reading pleasure as opposed to the marketing garble that most companies pollute our inboxes with.
The bouquets this week:
This is our first truly locally-grown bouquet of the season — ALL of the ingredients in this week’s bouquet were grown on the North Shore!! Spring has sprung.
My garden — 50 Queen of Night Tulips and Forget-me-not as filler.
My neighbour Gus — I knocked on his door to politely request some cuttings from his massive lilac tree. Gus is 94, and his family has lived in his house for over 100 years and there are apple trees in his backyard over 100 years old, planted by his parents, that still produce fruit. Gus has donated the blooms and in return he gets a free bouquet and a bottle of apple cider I made from apples in my own garden last summer (he also makes apple cider from his trees!) Thank you Gus!!
Rachel at Local Flora — Rachel is a local urban flower grower in Lynn Valley and I’ve arranged to buy 30 stems of ranunculus and 80 stems of tulips from her plot this week! She sells flowers from her flower cart which she advertises on the NextDoor app and we’ve joked that we must be kindred spirits or long-lost sisters. I hope to buy many more of her flowers for your bouquets throughout the summer — local flowers are the freshest and last the longest!
A note about Mother’s Day:
My volunteer help in the week prior to Mother’s Day is reduced, so I likely won’t be able to provide extra bouquets on Sunday, May 9th (Mother’s Day) from my flower stand, as I will be prioritizing the regular deliveries of my subscription customers (as I always do) on the Thursday and Friday prior to that occasion.
HOWEVER, if you’d like to honour your mother, or any mother, or mother-figure in your life that week, you can gift her a flower subscription, the first bouquet of which will arrive on Thursday, May 6 (North Van) or Friday, May 7 (West Van) along with a welcome package which details the philanthropy part of Everyday Bouquets (back issues of all newsletters), and will include a heartfelt message from yourself attached to that bouquet.
These new subscriptions are heartily welcomed (by me and your recipient!) and a unique gift and ALL proceeds support good local worthy causes and families in need, as you know.
Well thank you dear supporters! Kudos for reading this far. The next newsletter will reveal the inner workings of Everyday Bouquets: behind-the-scenes glimpses of our operations, a photo tour of my garage where the floral-arranging magic happens, our company motto and operating philosophy, and you’ll meet another team member!
April 29, 2021