Flower ministry brightens rooms and hearts

HILTON HEAD ISLAND—A ministry de­signed to give new life to flowers from weekend church services has given smiles to many local senior citizens and a much needed connec­tion to the outdoors for the past 13 years.

At 9:30 a.m. on Monday mornings, volunteers for the St. Francis by the Sea ‘Flowers for Friends’ group remove flowers used for Masses, funerals, weddings and special oc­casions and transport them to the family center kitchen, where the arrangements are dismantled. The withering blooms are discarded and those that remain are sorted into smaller arrangements that are delivered to several independent, assisted- and nursing-care commu­nities for senior citizens on Hilton Head Island.

Eileen Killenberger, who has led the effort for the past 10 years, along with fellow parishioner Anne Marie Lauzon, often uses foliage from the parish grounds to fill out the bunches and make them look more beautiful.

“I give the bushes a good trim and the added greenery makes the arrangements appear fuller and fresher. Everybody wins,” she said with a laugh.

Neither volunteer has any profes­sional flower-arranging experience, but working with flowers and garden­ing has always been one of her main hobbies, said Killenberger, who was widowed in 2008 but is now engaged to Dave Mulbarger, an usher at St. Francis by the Sea, where they met.

The flower ministry began in August 2003 when former parishio­ner Mary Grindstaff, who has since relocated to North Carolina, saw a need to re-purpose the flowers. Killenberger completes the Monday afternoon deliveries by loading the new arrangements into plastic milk crates in her car. The vases for the arrangements are donated by St. Francis by the Sea Thrift Store.

The volunteers place the arrange­ments in lobbies, dining rooms and common areas of the senior living communities.

“They are so well received by the residents,” Killenberger said. “I get smiles. I get hugs. I get thank yous. It is pure enjoyment for me from begin­ning to end.”

Janet Schumacher, 82, a Brook­dale Hilton Head resident and St. Francis by the Sea parishioner, said she loves when the volunteers walk in the front door of her community with the fresh floral arrangements.

“They are so beautiful and they bring the outdoors inside for those of us who don’t get out much anymore,” she said.

Another resident, John Thomas, 85, said it brightens his day to see the flowers. “It reminds me of a time when I could get out in my own garden and grow my own flowers,” he said.

Killenberger sees a strong parallel between the flowers and their recipi­ents: “The flowers have a lot of life left in them, as do the residents of the communities where I am deliver­ing them,” she said.

Rose Ewing | Special to The Catholic Miscellany


Photo provided: Eileen Killenberger, right, leads Flowers for Friends, a ministry of St. Francis by the Sea on Hilton Head Island that creates arrangements out of leftover flowers from Masses and gives them to nursing care facility residents. Anne Marie Lauzon, left, volunteers.