Spreading Blooms and Joy


By Lesley Harris Colvett
Photos courtesy of 901 POP

April showers bring May flowers, and 901 POP is spreading the joy of bouquets throughout the community! 901 POP bloomed from an idea that Stephanie Simpson had while looking at flowers on her desk. She thought about how the arrangement brightened her day and was inspired to start 901 POP in memory of her grandparents. Two of them passed away in their 90s the year prior. “I understood the importance of personal interactions. The flowers are the beauty and the vehicle for connections and the expression of love that occur when visiting a loved one,” Stephanie says. 901 POP’s first repurposing event was a wedding in September 2019. Stephanie and five other volunteers spent the months from her idea in late May until the wedding preparing and planning by collecting vases and contacting vendors in the wedding industry.

They decided the name, with POP standing for Petals of Purpose, right before the wedding. After repurposing the flowers and delivering them to the residents at Harrah’s Hope Lodge, she posted on social media, and 901 POP grew from there! In October 2021, 901 POP received a 501(c)3 approval from the IRS.

In the early days of 901 POP, Stephanie recalls staying up until 6:30am arranging flowers. “I had underestimated the quantity of flowers and the amount of time it would take to arrange them. I was grateful to have reinforcement from other volunteers the next day! The deliveries made the lack of sleep worth it. Volunteers and I delivered flowers to residents at Kirby Pines where my grandparents had lived, and then my mom and I also delivered arrangements to individuals at Baptist Reynolds Hospice House. I will never forget how meaningful it was interacting not just with the residents but also with their family members. They truly appreciated the unexpected gift of flowers and the visit,” Stephanie says.

Volunteers pick up flowers from event venues, create small bouquets at their arranging suite in East Memphis, and then distribute the arrangements to spread joy. “We are now fairly well known in the wedding industry, by the floral designers and wedding planners, as well as by other event vendors who pass our name along,” Stephanie says. “We ask our floral donors if they have a recommendation of where they would like the flowers to be delivered, and we do our best to accommodate their preferences. We often visit senior living communities. We also deliver to hospice homes, grief groups, women’s shelters, cancer centers, as well as to others who can use encouragement.” Most of the flowers 901 POP repurposes are from weddings, but they also receive them from galas, fundraisers, and large parties. They turn them around quickly so they are delivered as fresh as possible. It is not unusual for volunteers to arrange more than 200 bouquets after a large floral donation or from combining the florals from a couple of weddings in a weekend.

901 POP has volunteer opportunities for all ages and talent to spread joy through blooms. Even young children can participate in the deliveries. “Children, even younger ones, can help deliver the flowers. No one is more popular, especially at senior living communities, than young children! To have them deliver the flowers is one of my favorite parts of what we do. I love those personal experiences,” Stephanie says.

Stephanie says 901 POP is spreading joy not only among the recipients,but also among the volunteers. All are welcome to volunteer for 901 POP, you do not have to have a green thumb or want to arrange flowers to be a part of it; there are many roles. Students, professionals, parents, and retirees are all a part of the 901 POP volunteer community, and Stephanie happily states that it has been fun to see some sweet friendships bloom through volunteering with 901 POP. Stephanie points out that recent research shows that loneliness is a real problem, “We are more isolated today than ever before, and we hope that our work helps fight this epidemic, both for the volunteers and floral recipients. There are very few non-profits that can give the hands-on service opportunities that we offer. The intergenerational conversations that our young volunteers have at senior living communities is at the heart of what we do. We feel like we have created a community of care,” Stephanie says.

There are a variety of roles for volunteers: picking up the florals from the events, collecting vases, arranging and delivering the flowers, and writing notes. The note committee members hand write the notes that accompany each bouquet, and these may include a custom message from the floral donor. “Long after the flowers wilt, the note can be a special encouragement for our floral recipients,” Stephanie says.

When 901 POP started in 2019 they had merely 6 volunteers, and last year they had more than 600 individuals volunteer. Their growth has been steady, and to date 901 POP has delivered more than 20,000 bouquets. “The magic happens in those meaningful moments, in one-on-ones when a volunteer delivers a bouquet - child is interacting with a senior, or when volunteers are are arranging flowers and have a positive experience, together,” Stephanie says. "These are the experiences that really matter."

Stephanie has seen 901 POP thrive and grow over the years, and plans for the future includefundraising - to raise the money to support their operations. We the community can all help by donating supplies, volunteer time, and funding.

The mission of 901 POP is to spread joy and inspire kindness in our community through the repurposing of flowers and the sharing of personal experiences.

For more information on 901 POP, visit www.901pop.org, or follow them on Facebook 901 POP and Instagram @ 901_pop.

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