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Spreading the love: Columbus’ Hy-Vee makes massive flower donation to retirement home

February 20, 2019

It’s possible Effie Vavricek has never seen more roses in one place in her life than on Tuesday.

That morning, the Hy-Vee in Columbus surprised Vavricek, as well as all of the residents and staff at Brookstone Acres, with a mammoth donation of roses that came in a variety of colors. The store’s produce manager, Jedidiah States, and Assistant Manager of Perishables Ashley Szelag brought over what they estimated was 80-100 dozen roses to the nursing and rehabilitation campus at 4715 38th St. early Tuesday morning.

“I think that it’s nice as long as they have them. It will cheer up our rooms a lot,” Vavricek said, who noted she was eagerly waiting for her roses to be delivered to her room. “We like flowers.”

That’s what it’s about, according to the pair of Hy-Vee employees. The two said they were talking about what to do with all of the excess flowers they had when a light bulb went off in their heads.

“We’re not going to sell all these roses – we had a lot left over,” States said, recalling the conversation. “There’s probably a better way to do it than throwing them away or letting them just die.”

That’s when they decided to make an impromptu visit to Brookstone. The two said it plays into Hy-Vee’s motto of “there’s a helpful smile in every aisle.”

“The culture at Hy-Vee that I fell in love with as an employee is that we like to spread that to other people. Our mission is to make people leave the store with a smile,” States said. “So how can we do that outside of the store, especially with people who might get overlooked for things like Valentine’s Day.”

Szelag agreed.

“We just wanted to brighten their days,” she said. “Give them something unexpected.”

The kind gesture was certainly appreciated by those at Brookstone. Life Enrichment Coordinator Miranda Weitzenkamp said the facility received a call from Hy-Vee asking if they could make a special delivery of flowers, which they graciously accepted. But, she noted, they never imagined what was to come.

“Next thing we know they’re bringing in a whole van full of flowers,” she said. “The whole area was filled with like just buckets of flowers. It was pretty wonderful to see all of that.”

Flowers through the course of the day were dispersed to all residents’ rooms and to the nursing stations in the building. The Hy-Vee employees made a few deliveries directly to residents before they had to leave, with Brookstone staff members taking the next several hours to cut and prepare the flowers and then giving them to the residents.

Brookstone resident Beth Sloan said she was appreciative of the flowers, noting just about everyone loves to receive them - whether it is for a birthday, any special occasion or just because. She added her red roses were “beautiful.”

After checking out some of the flowers throughout one of the common areas at Brookstone, Vavricek made her way back to her room to find the special delivery she had been waiting on: Her dozen red roses. They were sitting just outside of her room on a shelf that also had some family photos on display. Vavricek was all smiles as she saw the roses for the first time.

“Oh yes,” she said when asked if she was happy with them.

Hy-Vee’s donation certainly won’t be forgotten.

“It’s a great feeling just to know they took the time and they decided they wanted to give back to us at Brookstone,” Weitzenkamp said. “I know it means a lot to the residents, and I think that’s where the staff comes from, we’re just so happy it makes the residents happy more than anything.”

And though the roses were happily accepted, the donation did force the staff to do some serious problem-solving when it came to spreading them around the building.

“The hardest thing out of all of this was trying to find enough vases,” Weitzenkamp said, with a laugh.

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.