When did you begin supporting RAF Tampa Bay?
Working in the senior care industry, I first learned about RAF from a Better Living for Seniors meeting where Monica came to speak. After that, I would see flowers being delivered at the different facilities and hospitals I visited. Working made it difficult for me to have additional hours during the day to volunteer but I was determined to find a way.At the end of 2016, I began working with Home Care Now and the owner allowed me the flexibility to volunteer with RAF during my workday. She agreed with me wholeheartedly that this was a beautiful mission worthy of our support!

What attracted you to the RAF mission?
Working with seniors and individuals with disabilities, I have seen firsthand how the smallest act of kindness can warm someone’s heart and brighten their day! I have always been resourceful and an avid supporter of “paying it forward” — so to be a part of an organization operating on both of those principles was a perfect fit for me. I love that so many hands come together to get a single bouquet in front of someone who least expects it but can benefit from it the most.

To you, what is the most important thing that RAF does?
RAF connects people and lifts up their spirits. Whether you are donating flowers or vases, collecting donations, helping with different levels of preparation, delivering bouquets, working in the facility where deliveries are being made, or the actual recipient of a bouquet – each and every person is touched by the beauty and simple joy of this selfless gift being passed through so many caring hands! It reminds us all, along the way, that we are part of a bigger picture here of fellowship, appreciation, support, and kindness. Together, one step, one person, one flower at at time, we can make a positive difference in each others’ lives.

What motivates you to stay committed?
I just love to make people smile! It’s that simple. Plus, in my profession, I see every day how isolation and loneliness can affect our older population. It’s important for us to find ways to reach out to those that may not have family nearby and let them know that they are not alone. The smallest gesture can help elevate their mood and remind them that they are valued.

What would you say to someone thinking about becoming an RAF supporter?
Like Nike, I’d say Just Do it! Supporting RAF is an easy commitment to make — whether it be financially, in-kind, or through your own time and effort. There are so many opportunities available to be a part of this at whatever level you are comfortable with or have time for in your schedule. It’s a wonderful activity to do with family and friends too. Even only once a month is helpful to RAF and a wonderful way to give back to the community. Just imagine if you lived too far away to see your loved one in a hospital or nursing home – wouldn’t it make you feel good to know that a kind volunteer brightened their day by bringing them flowers out of the blue? RAF is so well-organized and easy to get involved with — everyone should experience volunteering with RAF at least once!

Do you have an anecdote, memory, or story about RAF that really touched you?
I normally deliver to the hospitals, so it’s always touching to bring flowers to someone who says they have NEVER received flowers before! In fact, the older male patients often say that and then decline to accept the flowers because they feel someone else may need them more. I always tell them that we have plenty to share and that I picked the bouquet I brought in just for them (with ‘manly colors’). They usually get a kick out of that and most end up letting me leave them in the room. Some of the gentlemen are sneaky, and they turn around and give those flowers to their nurse first chance they get because THAT makes them smile even more!

What do you do for work and how do you like to spend your free time?
I work as the Director of Outreach & Development for Home Care Now, a locally-owned, private duty in-home health care agency that serves Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. We provide home health aides, CNAs and nurses to individuals and families that need assistance as they care for a loved one, recover from illness, rehabilitate from surgery, or simply wish to maintain their independence in their own homes. I also coordinate special events for special needs adults through the YMCA. In my free time, I like to work with SAGES (Senior Actors Guild & Education Services) community theater and am currently directing a public service play called “Denying Gravity” about fall prevention in collaboration with our local fire departments.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I have lived in the Tampa Bay area for over 40 years. My entire family is here and my brother (and his company, WestCMR) is also a big supporter of RAF. My daughter has even volunteered with me! Community service is in our DNA and we are so happy to be connected to this outstanding organization. I encourage everyone to keep spreading the word about RAF so we can keep bringing smiles to those who need it most for many more years to come!