“Drown Your Sorrows in Good Deeds”
How loss turned to hope with Random Acts of Flowers
When Theresa Heller’s young son Charlie passed away in a tragic accident during the summer of 2015, she felt understandably at sea. He had been a vibrant boy and a source of love and laughter for his mother, family, classmates and community. “He was so full of life,” she says, “and the world was his oyster.” Charlie was known around their neighborhood as “Charlie the Merchant,” and he loved to sell (or simply give away) games, lemonade and toys from his table or wheelbarrow.
In honor of the vibrancy and generosity of her son’s life, Theresa decided to establish Flowers from Charlie the Merchant, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity (#5402085). She tells us that delivering flower bouquets in her community helps her keep the joy of his life alive and is the only thing that makes her feel better.
Theresa first discovered RAF in Readers’ Digest, but the seed of the idea for Charlie the Merchant came from young Charlie himself. Theresa had a job merchandising flowers at local stores, and sometimes, Charlie would come along. They noticed how many perfectly good flowers were going to waste because they were out of date or had one bad flower in the bunch. Charlie lamented the waste and wished the bouquets could be donated for people in their community.
After his passing, Theresa decided to put this idea into action. With advice from RAF and flowers from her family’s gardens, Flowers from Charlie the Merchant gave away over 1,000 bouquets in its first year of operation. These were delivered to residents of Kalamazoo County, including those at hospice, hospital, and nursing homes, as well as the VFW (baby potted plants), and many others.
The local Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 98 donated the initial money to get the nonprofit charity status and launch Flowers from Charlie the Merchant. Portage Printing donated business cards to the cause, and Sign Crafters of Parchment donated a large magnet sign for the side of Theresa’s vehicle. In recent months, Charlie the Merchant has talked with Meals on Wheels through Senior Services of Kalamazoo, and is hoping to be able to reach the capacity to do this soon.
“I don’t have to sit and wonder ‘Now what? Who am I’? I’ve established this,
and it’s my future. The need is there.”
Theresa also hopes to use this as a way to show Charlie’s cousins, friends and classmates about grief, and that “It’s helped them too, I think. They can see that you don’t have to be shattered forever. You can still do something. Life goes on and you can try to make the best of it.”
Charlie the Merchant has brought healing and meaning into her life. She says, “I don’t have to sit and wonder ‘Now what? Who am I’? I’ve established this, and it’s my future. The need is there.”
In 2017, Theresa would love to continue to grow the reach of Charlie the Merchant. She asks that if anyone in the Kalamazoo area would be interesting in donating money or flowers, or volunteering to deliver boxes of bouquets, they visit the Charlie the Merchant website or email Theresa directly.