Sixteen years ago, a relative of Heidi Berkman landed in hospice care. When she tried to talk to her friends about it, Berkman found a lot of people scared to take on death in conversation. “We are really uncomfortable with it, to the extent that sometimes we don’t go visit, don’t call, or don’t even send flowers,” says Berkman.
Not long after, the Bloom Project took root in Berkman’s garage. Its mission: repurpose unsold flowers (most donated by wholesale markets that supply local flower shops) and deliver them to patients of hospice and palliative care facilities. “I took flowers to a woman I was caring for who had just signed onto hospice,” remembers Meg Linaham, a nurse at Southwest Portland’s Hopewell House. “She had been in some abusive relationships. She cried and told me that no one had ever given her flowers before.”
The Bloom Project has distributed about 200,000 bouquets to area hospice care organizations, a number sure to grow thanks in part to one of the biggest flower holidays: Valentine’s Day.