Every week Donna Clark delivers flowers to about 20 residents at Avalon Care Center in Federal Way to brighten their rooms and their days.
She’s been doing so for the past seven years. Her dedication to spreading joy among the residents prompted her husband, Al, to nominate her as Citizen of the Month.
“An avid gardener, Donna brings flowers from her garden and chats with each resident as she is arranging a bouquet in their vase,” Al said in an email about his wife. “Everyone knows her as the ‘Flower Lady.’ Residents and staff know her friendly smile.
“When her garden has no flowers in the wintertime, she buys about $30 worth of cut flowers from one of the grocery stores. At 78 years old, older than many of the residents, she loves what she does. And everyone who hears of her work is amazed with her dedication. Most people find nursing homes to be very dreary. Donna does her part in bringing smiles to everyone.”
Clark started visiting residents in nursing homes years ago through the Friend to Friend organization, which pairs volunteers with nursing home residents.
“You are supposed to develop a relationship and take them places if they were able to do that. It was great,” she said.
Clark’s experience volunteering at nursing homes and helping her own mother through health struggles inspired her to become an activities director at a nursing home and later at Heritage House at the Market near Pike Place Market in Seattle, which was the first assisted living facility in the state.
When Clark and her husband moved to Northeast Tacoma from the Seatac area, she started visiting residents at Avalon, 135 S. 336th St.
One of the residents she visited often talked about how much she loved flowers, so Clark started bringing some from her own garden to the woman.
Soon her flower deliveries grew – just like her garden, which is comprised primarily of dahlias.
“It is just my passion,” Clark said of visiting the residents and delivering flowers. “It is something that makes me think of the little things. Sometimes when you have given up a lot of other things like your home and you don’t really have a lot of say of what goes on in your life, it just comforts the person that receives the flowers.”
Delivering the flowers gives Clark a chance to visit with the residents.
“Most of the people I have been giving flowers to have vases,” she said. “I don’t do the arrangements here at my house. I take the flowers there in buckets. If the people are able to, I let them choose (the flowers). … They will often talk about what kind flowers they grew and which kind they like the best. Or they tell you stories about what their husband did to their flowers, if they ran over them or something.”
Although she primarily delivers flowers to women, there are a few men who receive the blooms.
“Sometimes the men want them to give to staff,” she said.
Clark said it is rewarding to give back to the community and encourages others to do the same.
“Just the joy of seeing people when you walk in the door,” she said. “(They say) ‘Oh, I am so glad to see you, so glad you came.”
The staff at the care center also enjoys Clark’s deliveries.
“They love that,” she said. “They love the flowers. Often they will ask what are the flowers, because they don’t know or they will ask where I got them.”
Clark said she plans to continue delivering flowers as long as she is able.