Michelle Gillespie chooses which flowers to put in her bouquet that she will later drop off at a senior’s door. (Mathilda de Villiers/COMMUNITY)

Maple Ridge Flower Brigade brightens days of seniors

Every Wednesday, seniors are gifted with flowers, being reminded that they are loved and cared for.

Flowers that would otherwise never make it on to someone’s table are now being given as gifts to brighten the days of Maple Ridge seniors.

Tanya Sawchuk, of Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living, started a weekly program in which she and a crew of four visit local seniors homes and deliver handmade bouquets to residents.

A year ago, Sawchuk decided she wanted to do something extra for her community. Along with working at the non-profit association in Maple Ridge, she is also a registered caregiver for seniors. Through her work, she saw a gap that could be filled with a simple act – delivering flowers.

She reached out to Kam’s Market in Maple Ridge and was thrilled when the owners agreed to donate day-old flowers every week, which are then made into bouquets and delivered by what has become known as the ‘Flower Brigade.’

The name came from the recipients, who after some time started remarking: “‘Oh, here comes the flower brigade,’” Sawchuk said.

She drives to the market in the mornings with fellow brigade members to collect the donated flowers, usually enough for about 10 to 12 bouquets, which can last up to a week or two.

The community living association provides many different services for adults with developmental disabilities, autism and fetal alcohol syndrome, as well as assisting their families.

The association delivers the Meals on Wheels program, as well as many other activities and services, in addition to the flowers.

Sawchuk put together a crew, all part of the Options Day Program with the association.

The brigade spends most of its time Wednesdays making bouquets of beautiful blooms, which include roses, Gerbera daisies and carnations.

Sawchuk and her team arrive at the association’s building on 227th Street in the morning to prepare a selection of flowers, then head to the care homes and knock on doors.

Brigade members make the bouquets, tying them with white, green or pink ribbon, making sure that the flowers are in good shape for delivery.

They choose the seniors who have either recently lost a loved one, don’t have any family or who tend to be lonely.

Sawchuk works closely with the seniors and she knows from her work who in particular might be in need.

“There’s so many bad things going on, it’s nice to have something that makes people happy,” Sawchuk said.

She added that members of the Flower Brigade almost always receive hugs and kisses from teary-eyed residents, grateful for the gesture.

Marje Magowan, a resident at Revera Sunwood Residence Senior Living Residence, 224th Street, said she “absolutely loves it.”

It has also, in turn, made an impact on some of Sawchuk’s fellow bouquet creators.

Mitch Aeichele, a brigade member who has been in private care at the same family for the past 30 years, never used to talk much, according to Sawchuk.

But since he started delivering flowers, he now says hello to the seniors when handing out the bouquets.

When Christa Klemm received her flowers from brigade member David Wason this week, she welled up and gave him a big hug. She said that the gesture means so much to her that it is hard to describe.

Two seniors’ living facilities are visited by the group, Revera Sunwood Senior Living Residence and Greystone Manor, alternately each week.

Magowan and other residents have also received art pieces from the members of the Flower Brigade, which now hang in their rooms.

Magowan appreciates their efforts.

“The flowers are beautiful, but it’s the thought behind it.”



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Tanya Sawchuk makes bouquets from donated flowers with Mitch Aeichele, David Wason, Michelle Gillespie and Paul Anderson. (Mathilda de Villiers/COMMUNITY)

Flowers are donated by Kam’s Market every week. (Mathilda de Villiers/COMMUNITY)

Tanya Sawchuk (left) hands flowers to Mitch Aeichele and Paul Anderson for them to gift them to a senior. (Mathilda de Villiers/COMMUNITY)

Marje Magowan, always happy to receive her flowers from the Flower Brigade. (Mathilda de Villiers/COMMUNITY)

Hendriks Schutt smiles as she receives her flowers from the Flower Brigade. (Mathilda de Villiers/COMMUNITY)

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