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After a devastating tornado hit Moore, Okla., on May 20, killing 24 people; injuring nearly 400; and destroying about 1,300 structures, including two schools, a hospital and multiple businesses, it was clear that the Oklahoma City suburb of just 60,000 or so residents was going to need major assistance. So florists quickly responded.

Just a day or two after the tornado struck, florists were already offering their assistance. One florist, Scherry Johnson of Broadway Florist in Moore, announced that she would donate flowers for victims’ funerals. Posts on the Oklahoma State Florists’ Association (OSFA) Facebook page indicate that other florists were doing the same. Broadway Florist’s wholesale suppliers helped in the cause, donating “about 48 boxes of flowers … for victim’s services, so families [would] not have to pay for flowers,” according to the shop’s Facebook page.

Despite damage and a serious loss of inventory at A New Beginning Florist (see photo above), according to a May 26 article in The Oklahoman, the shop was able to complete tributes for some of the tornado’s victims as well as arrange florals for a scheduled wedding while at the same time cleaning up A New Beginning’s damaged facility.

A post on the shop’s Facebook page notes that “people all over the U.S. [have contacted us] wanting to donate funds for sympathy flowers to help these families who have lost their loved ones. On top of that, some fellow florists from the great state of Texas have contacted me, and they will be here to help with this need that unfortunately is quickly approaching. I'm blessed with wonderful suppliers who have opened their facilities for us to work out of until we are back up and running.”

On Thursday, May 23, just three days after the deadly storm, Brian Ferrell posted an “official call to action” on the OSFA Facebook page, asking for volunteers to assist with floral arrangements for the Moore citywide memorial service, which was held on Sunday, May 26, as well as for “individual memorial services and for hospital patients affected by the disaster,” he wrote. Brian also indicated that florists around Oklahoma as well as those represented by the Arkansas Florists Association and the Texas State Florists' Association had also offered their assistance.

Marie Ackerman, AIFD, AAF, PFCI, who is the vice president of education at the Teleflora Education Center in Oklahoma City, coordinated much of the local effort, particularly for the public memorial service. Marie notes that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin had appointed a team to coordinate the public service, and Marie and her team worked with the governor’s staff to provide florals. Marie reports that flower donations came from multiple sources and were received and coordinated by Sooner Wholesale Florist in Oklahoma City.

Design work was completed at Greenleaf Wholesale Florist’s Oklahoma City facility, where hundreds of volunteers from multiple states converged to process and arrange tons of flowers. Click here to see photos posted by Teleflora. Marie says that Teleflora provided meals for the volunteers as well as donated containers for arrangements.

Volunteers worked in teams to create the arrangements, which included a “Garden of Life” — 40-foot-long “window boxes” that flanked the stage. “We also created a 60-foot garland in foam that lined the choir rail and two large all-white arrangements at the podium plus multiple arrangements for two auxiliary locations where the service was broadcast” to the overflow crowd, Marie recalls.

The donations also included 5,000 red roses handed out, by Teleflora staff and local Girl Scouts, to all attendees at the service as well as Gerberas held by each of the 100 children who sang together. The florals can be seen in this video of the memorial service.

“An army of volunteers came together to make the [florals at the public memorial service] possible,” assures OSFA Vice President Eva Riter, AIFD, OCF, of Eva’s Flowers & Gifts in Bartlesville, Okla. And their efforts were well worth it. “The service was very moving, and flowers played a huge role in the healing process, so it was very rewarding for all of us,” confirms Marie.

Sources: The Oklahoman newspaper; U.S. News on; Huffington Post

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