You have probably heard of "dumpster divers," people who make use of food that grocery stores discard because it's past its prime.
Chalfont resident Patricia Gallagher does the same for flowers, she collects day-old bouquets at area Trader Joe's locations—and distributes them to nursing home residents.
Gallagher's flower delivery day begins before 8 in the morning, when she is waiting for the Center City Trader Joe's store to open its doors. Wearing a brightly colored dress, she swiftly collects enough free bouquets to fill an entire shopping cart. The store clerks set the flowers aside for her; some are a bit wilted, slightly droopy, and a few petals float to the ground, but, to Gallagher, they are perfect.
"There are pink roses, there's a bouquet of red roses, there are snapdragons," she lists excitedly, as she wheels her bounty into the parking lot.
Gallagher's next stop is Wesley Enhanced Living nursing home on Greene Street in Germantown, where residents are already waiting for her in the day room.
Gallagher walks in and greets the residents, she knows most of them by name and engages them in small talk.
"That's Angela," she said pointing to one resident in a colorful dress. "Angela's family was very close friends with Martin Luther King Jr."
Gallagher found out about the free flowers at a charity event in May, where tables were decorated with the day-old bouquets. She had been looking for a new volunteer project and decided to become "The Flower Lady," as she calls herself. She delivers flowers to nursing homes throughout the region.
"As of today, I've delivered 3,116 bouquets that they were going to throw away," she told residents. "I love being 'The Flower Lady.'"
Nursing home resident Angela DuBose was visibly thrilled with her bouquet. "Oh, roses," she sighed. "Thank you so much. My mother loved roses—oh, they are so gorgeous, I want to cry."
Cradling her bouquet, DuBose recalled something her mother used to say: "Give me my flowers when I can smell them—I don't need them when I'm dead."
Gallagher spends a few minutes with each resident, helping a blind woman enjoy her flowers.
"Mary, they are yellow and orange and green and purple," she says. "They are beautiful. ... Can you smell them?"
Gallagher drives up to three hours each day to deliver the flowers, but it's a labor of love for her. "It's the best job I have ever had," she said. "I mean, volunteer job. I love it!"
Gallagher says nothing is more joyful than bringing joy to others.