The Current

Ontario flower farm, students gave every resident of this long-term care home a bouquet of their own

As the pandemic’s one-year anniversary approached, Melanie Harrington of Dahlia May Flower Farm wanted to honour isolated long-term care residents in Ontario. Wednesday, with the help of local students, she delivered bouquets of fresh flowers to a Tweed, Ont., care home — free of charge.

Dahlia May Flower Farm wanted to honour seniors who ‘had in some senses been forgotten’ during pandemic

From left, Marion Ducharme, Francis Murphy and Gerry Bongard, residents of Moira Place long-term care home in Tweed, Ont., hold fresh bouquets of flowers delivered to them by Dahlia May Flower Farm and students from Tweed Elementary School on Wednesday. (Submitted by Melanie Harrington)

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When Melanie Harrington was 18 months old, her mother was diagnosed with a rare but aggressive bone cancer, and a subsequent surgery left her paralyzed from the waist down.

As a result, her mom spent much of her life in the hospital and long-term care. Harrington grew up there by her side, eating cafeteria Jell-O and forming an "extended family" with the nurses.

Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, Harrington says she's spent every day thinking of the people still living in long-term care homes, which have been hit particularly hard. In Ontario alone, nearly 4,000 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19.

"I was fortunate enough to be able to hold my mom's hand as she passed away, and I know that so many people have lost family members during COVID and haven't been able to spend that precious time, especially at [the] end of life, with their family members," she told The Current.

So when the pandemic's one-year anniversary approached this year, Harrington and her staff at the Dahlia May Flower Farm in Trenton, Ont., wanted to honour long-term care residents who she said "had in some senses been forgotten, and in some senses had struggled so much during COVID."

On Wednesday, with the help of Grade 8 students from Tweed Elementary School, they delivered bouquets of fresh flowers to seniors at Moira Place — free of charge. The long-term care facility is home to 120 residents, and is located in Tweed, Ont., a community of about 6,000 people northeast of Toronto.

Moira Place is just one of 21 long-term care homes in the Bay of Quinte area that have received special deliveries from the flower farm.

Although the home has managed to avoid any COVID-19 cases during the pandemic, it's been a lonely time for residents there, amid provincial lockdowns and visitor restrictions.

Melanie Harrington, owner of Dahlia May Flower Farm in Trenton, Ont., holds a flat of fresh bouquets inside her truck, as she prepares to deliver them to the seniors Wednesday. (Alison Masemann/CBC)

"It almost brings me to tears," said 90-year-old Marion Ducharme, who was among a handful of residents waiting outside the care home when Harrington's truck pulled into the driveway.

Student Callie Derry told Ducharme that she and her classmates wanted her to know they care about her, and that she's on their minds during this challenging time.

To have young people think of us is really something.- Marion Ducharme, long-term care resident

"To have young people think of us is really something," Ducharme said.

"It's been a hard year, you know, because you haven't seen your families that much. … It's difficult for everyone."

Stories of family separation are what motivated Harrington to do something special for the residents in the first place. And she wasn't the only one who wanted to help brighten their day. 

Almost as soon as they came up with their free flower delivery idea, local teachers and schools began asking how they could help. 

Grade 8 student Callie Derry carries jars of fresh flowers to seniors at Moira Place on Wednesday. She says she and her classmates wanted residents of the long-term care home to know that they were thinking about them. (Submitted by Melanie Harrington)

"We sought community donations, and our community completely rallied, and we get the opportunity to spread a lot of joy in the community through this program," Harrington said.

It was a double dose of joy for the Grade 8 students taking part in the Moira Place delivery, as they were headed to their own graduation ceremony afterward.

WATCH | Students deliver flowers to Moira Place long-term care home:

Ontario community rallies to shower long-term care residents with flowers

1 year ago
Duration 1:52
Dahlia May Flower Farm in Trenton, Ont., and Grade 8 students at Tweed Elementary School, teamed up to donate fresh bouquets of flowers to long-term care residents, to remind them that they haven't been forgotten during the pandemic.

And it may not be the last time students get to take part in the good deed. 

"I suggest that this should be a tradition for their graduation day," Moira Place administrator Michael O'Keefe told Harrington while thanking her for the flowers Wednesday.

As for Harrington, she hopes to keep the program running through the summer and fall, and eventually, year-round.

She told O'Keefe deliveries like this are the best part of her job.

"We often say that we make people happy for a living," Harrington told The Current. "Our vessel to do so is flowers, but our actual job is that we make people happy."

Written by Kirsten Fenn. Produced by Alison Masemann.

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