360° of Thanks

Sheryl Proctor-Bloom started volunteering in September of 2017, not too long after she retired. She had seen a newspaper article about the branch’s launch and know “this was the spot for me!”

Sheryl calls RAF’s mission a “360 degree concept of gratitude. Not only are we brightening the lives of those in hospitals and nursing homes, we are also providing an opportunity for florists/vendors to salvage and re-purpose flowers. We’re giving SO many volunteers opportunities to give back and also providing donors with a worthwhile outlet for giving. It’s a win-win for everyone We all benefit from giving!” And, she has seen the RAF mission from every angle – start with floral prep before adding pick up from some of our floral partners and then moving on to arranging a little later on.

She does say, however, that her favorite volunteer activity is deliveries, and she has “specifically chosen to sign up for our local Eskenazi hospital that serves the poor and uninsured. It’s the highlight of my month!”

Sheryl particularly likes that RAF’s mission “helps others by brightening their life journey.” She credits her aunt and godmother, Carmen (who passed away four years ago), as the inspiration for her wanting to give back. Carmen was a schoolteacher who had a sign in her classroom that said “We’re all just walking each other home.”

And, being part of RAF has brightened Sheryl’s life journey, too. She says she looks forward to each and every interaction involving RAF – “With my floral pickups, I’ve built a relationship with the department managers and I often share an anecdote with them about my last delivery and how the flowers they donated just made someone’s day. I know that helps them feel appreciated and have a sense of belonging. I look forward to working with my volunteer peers who have also become friends. We share and laugh about life’s ups and downs and lean on each other for advice or even comfort at times.”

She knows that giving hope means receiving hope, as well; and she shared with us a precious delivery memory –

“On one of my delivery visits, the patient rep told me the patient’s name was Michael and that he was having a rough time. I entered the room with my usual smile and introduction. Michael was sitting on the side of the bed with a medical assistant nearby. The arrangement I had for him was a larger one with a variety of summer flowers. He held it in his hand, examining it slowly and carefully. He proceeded to name every single flower in the arrangement. He said, ‘You don’t know how much I needed this.’

I told him how impressed I was that he knew the names of all the flowers. Tears started rolling down his cheeks and he said, ‘Before this happened (he pointed down to his amputated legs), I used to be a landscaper. I miss my flowers and plants.’

At this point, I was in tears too and struggling for something appropriate to say to him. I said, ‘Michael, I can see and hear your passion for what you do. I am confident that you will find a way to get right back to working with your flowers and plants. I just know it will happen!’

He looked up and me and said, ‘You think so?’

‘I know so, Michael!’ I gave him a hug and thanked him for sharing his story.”

Moments like these turn the thank full circle for Sheryl. And, she knows there are so many stories similar to this one, including her own.

I am a ten-year breast cancer survivor. When I was going through surgery, chemo and radiation, I was reluctant to accept help from family and friends. In my mind, I was this independent and self-sustaining woman who could ‘handle’ this little bump in my life all by myself.

Something I learned was to NOT make it about me, but to ALLOW others to help me. Make it about them and give them the opportunity they long for – to be of help in their own way. Once I shifted my thinking, I realized that I was actually being selfish by not letting people help. I now have a much better understanding off how we all benefit from giving to others.

After all, ‘We’re all just walking each other home.'”