The Buddhist scholar and historian Jack Kornfield once observed, “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” Oren Shapiro, president of Mrs. Bloom’s Direct, an Elmsford-based importer and distributor of cut flowers, is putting that observation by using the power of flowers to help those facing severe life changes.
Shapiro has launched PETALZ, a nationwide program that brings flowers to seniors living in long-term care communities. A portion of the proceeds from the program is channeled to the Alzheimer’s Association. For Shapiro, PETALZ is a culmination of his involvement in the floral industry.
“I used to practice law in the city, but I wanted a better life,” he said. “I started in the flower business by importing flowers from all over the world and I wanted to incorporate a charitable gift back into all of the things that we do. That has been our mantra since I started the company back in 2003.”
Shapiro initially pursued his altruistic goals through what he dubbed a “Friday flowers program,” where the tenants of Manhattan’s office towers would buy flowers from a lobby stand at the end of the working week and proceeds from the sales would go to the property owners’ favorite charity. He later created a mobile version of that to serve suburban office parks.
Yet Shapiro also noted a void that was not being properly served.
“One segment that nobody in the flower industry was really going after was the senior citizens, particularly the senior living communities, assisted living communities and memory care facilities,” he said. “And there is no program out if a family member wanted to get flowers to their loved ones — they’d have to either bring it or send it via one of the dot-coms.”
PETALZ is aimed at the owners and operators of long-term care communities for seniors. For as little as $10 per week per resident, communities receive multiple units of flowers, all residents in the care communities receive a vase and each community receives complimentary flowers for their welcome area, cafeteria and other common areas.
“Seniors can have fresh flowers in their rooms every single week for $60 a month per resident,” Shapiro said. “Compare that to around $80 to $85 for one arrangement of questionable quality sent via the dot-coms that are out there.”
For the charitable aspect of the idea, Shapiro chose to donate 10% of the proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association.
“I don’t have family members that suffer from it,” he said of the disease. “But I experienced the devastation firsthand with a dear neighbor and watched her go downhill — it was tragic to see her become this very lost soul who didn’t know who she was and where she was.”
Shapiro noted that while the Covid-19 pandemic continues to restrict the interaction between the residents of the care communities and their loved ones, the weekly gift of flowers can keep the connection between the residents and their socially distanced families intact.
“If you can’t visit with your loved ones, here’s something that hopefully will make them smile,” he said.