Meet Some of our Volunteers Across the Nation
Al and Liz Chase – Chicago
RAF Chicago volunteers, Al and Liz Chase, have a very simple reason for their more than a year of involvement in our mission of delivering hope. “We like flowers; almost everybody likes flowers. Delivering them is such a loving act. The hippies bringing love to the world in the 1960s and 70s were called flower children, and one of their mottoes was flower power. We are the flower children of 2017.”
For this married couple, it’s all about the love, and they believe that love is the most important aspect of the RAF mission. “Make people feel worthy and loved because their lives mean something. Often, we walk into rooms with no sign of love or hope. Bringing light into these lives is what is important. Thanking veterans for their service and bringing comfort to old or sick people.” They know that delivering hope can not only brighten someone’s day, but can brighten their whole outlook on life.
The Chases are also rightfully proud of their very successful vase drives. Al reports that, “Liz has done the organizing of a local vase drive that collected several hundred vases in 2016. We have a collection bin in front of our house and at the yoga studio. A walk around our neighborhood, dropping letters in mailboxes on a couple of blocks, resulted in 30 to 50 vases being dropped off over the next several days.”
Karen Karmolinski – Indianapolis
As RAF Indianapolis prepared to open its doors last October, it welcomed a group of enthusiastic new volunteers, including Karen Karmolinski. She became one of the branches first volunteers, inspired by the simplicity of the mission and filled with the desire to pay it forward to her community.
Karen believes that “the mission of delivering hope is a small but important step in healing the body and soul. This random act of care and kindness lets people know that there are others out there who love them.” For her, just knowing that the work we do will touch the hearts of others motivates her to stay involved with Random Acts of Flowers.
And, she knows the healing power of flowers firsthand. Her daughter-in-law has spent three years battling stage 4 melanoma, resulting in many hospital stays. This experience has inspired her to try to bring light to families in similarly tough situations through her volunteer work.
When she’s not delivering hope and encouragement with with Random Acts of Flowers Indianapolis, Karen enjoys spending time with family and friends, gardening, reading, and helping others in our community.
Sara Clapp – Knoxville
Her experience with the mission has a much longer history, however. “My late husband was diagnosed with leukemia (CML) in November of 2014, and was the receipient of a poinsettia on Christmas Eve.” Two years later, he received a second delivery just before he passed away. Sara’s first-hand connection makes her volunteerism all the more heartfelt. “We appreciated the flowers he was given and I thought this was something I would enjoy.”
Her grown children embrace and encourage Sara’s participation at the Random Acts of Flowers workshop, and she’s already become a familiar smiling face to other volunteers, Knoxville staff, and the staff at the National Headquarters. RAF CMO and COO, Cindy McConkey Cox had the chance to chat with Sara on her first day volunteering and says, “Sara has a light about her that you just want to share. She came into the Knoxville branch mission-focused and ready to make a difference in people’s lives. We are lucky to have volunteers like her.”
When not at the RAF workshop, Sara enjoys walking with her Silver Sneakers class and reading.
Patty Peasley – Silicon Valley
Patty Peasley’s interest in the healing power of flowers began at an early age when her mother’s green thumb inspired her. “I was always surrounded by gorgeous flowers in the garden. As a youngster, I was encouraged to make May baskets and deliver them to neighbors.” Today, her husband of 51 years encourages her work with RAF. “He sees the joy it brings me.”
A volunteer since April 2015, Patty loves that “RAF gives volunteers the opportunity to share in the celebration of life by delivering flowers to others who are often isolated from the real pleasures, including social contact and nature.”
While she has made many memories during her time as a volunteer, one delivery stands out to her. “I recall an elderly man who was so gracious…He asked that each flower be identified and then wanted to know more about RAF. He stated that he had never received flowers of his own and was so delighted that someone thought of him.”
Patty’s advice to potential volunteers is to “follow the passion in your life and put your energy into it. RAF has afforded me that opportunity, and I recommend it to anyone. You walk away feeling that you are the one who has received a gift.”
Shari Schwartz – Tampa Bay
For Shari Schwartz, the perpetual spring and summer weather in Tampa Bay is what put her in the right place at the right time to become an RAF volunteer. Soon after the branch opened in late 2013, snowbird Shari saw a newspaper article that inspired her to put her experience as a floral arranger to good use; and, with the encouragement and support of her husband, she became a dedicated volunteer during the months that they spend in Florida.
Three years and dozens of deliveries later, Shari still finds joy in arranging flowers and delivering hope in Tampa Bay. To her, the most important thing that Random Acts of Flowers does is bring smiles to the faces of people who are in a tough moment in their lives, and those smiles are what motivate her to stay involved.
She and her husband deliver bouquets to the VA hospital once a month, and she considers it an honor to give back to the veterans, thanking them for their service. When not volunteering at Random Acts of Flowers, Shari enjoys cooking, reading, and – of course – enjoying the beautiful Florida weather.