Molly Gamble wants to brighten the days of older adults “and anyone who is homebound, struggling with illness or particularly disheartened right now.” And the ex-florist has found a way by founding Petal Pushers, a volunteer effort that delivers arrangements of colorful, fresh-cut garden flowers in mason jars to the doors of some 30 surprised recipients each week.
Gamble’s first Petal Pushers delivery occurred on May Day, “a great day to get flowers and give flowers.” Along with her friend Andrea Star and several other volunteers, Gamble is meticulous about handling the free gifts in the coronavirus era. The entire Petal Pusher crew wears masks and gloves, carefully wipes down the vases and stays socially distant.
The original plan was to deliver everything by electric bicycle (and small trailer) in Marin County’s Ross Valley. But Gamble forgot just how steep San Anselmo hills are, and after her bike tipped over, requiring her to rearrange an arrangement, most deliveries were switched to autos.
“The bike was such a cute idea,” she said, “but very impractical. We can get so many more deliveries made by car.”
The flowers are picked mostly from her Ross backyard, though she supplements her homegrown blooms with filler flora grown by Healdsburg’s Front Porch Farm.
Sara Robinson, chair of San Anselmo’s Age Friendly task force, was sure her group could add to the emotional boost the deliveries were giving housebound elders. So, she started promoting the program through town newsletters, Nextdoor and other neighbor-to-neighbor programs.
Age Friendly also created a page on the town’s website where people can nominate recipients or volunteer to help, as well as offer donations of mason jars, tags and ribbons. The site notes that deliveries will continue into June or until the shelter-in-place order has ended.
Petal Pushers deliveries normally go to one individual, but on Mother’s Day arrangements went to each resident in Bello Gardens, a small assisted living facility in San Anselmo.
Bouquets have also been given to staff members at Tam House, a nonprofit for low-income seniors, and for tables in its dining room.
Gamble’s project isn’t quite 100% altruistic, though.
“Finding a way to give back, for me, makes my days go by easier,” the florist said, and she admits to being gratified by the positive feedback. “I’ve been touched and amazed by how much it means to people because they realize that someone is thinking of them, and that really matters right now.”
One appreciative woman, in fact, took pains to say she especially loved “the pink roses and snapdragons” because she’d never had flowers delivered to her before. While another recipient said she was grateful because she’d just returned from the hospital to find a bouquet on her doorstep. And yet a third summed up the Petal Pushers program rather succinctly: “Your volunteers are angels.”