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A group of seniors at Boutwells Landing trim and arrange flowers into bouquets to place around the retirement community. The group meets every Thursday morning and uses flowers from Cub Foods that would otherwise be thrown away.(Gazette staff photo by Kevin Ott)

One morning, Judy Rubertus, a resident at Boutwells Landing in Oak Park Heights, was reading a story in the Star Tribune about two women who went to their local grocery store to ask what they did with the flowers they could no longer sell.

They were told that the store usually throws them away, even when many of the flowers still have a good amount of life left in them. The store agreed to give the flowers that would have been disposed to the two women, where they arranged them into bouquets and brought them to their local nursing home to help spread some joy to its residents.

Rubertus shared the article with her friend Ginny Morrell, who is a retired florist. On a Sunday morning, Morrell came home with an envelope from the church she attended that contained $20. She was told that morning to “share the love” with others using the $20 in any way she can think of.

Using that news story as inspiration, the two friends decided to spend that $20 on flower vases. They then asked the Cub Foods in Oak Park Heights if they would save the flowers they could no longer sell for them to pick up and use for bouquets. The director at the Cub Foods at the time was eager to provide the dated flowers so they could be given new life, Rubertus said.

“It’s been a great partnership,” said Cub Foods manager Robert Davenport. “It’s good for the environment, and we’re happy that people can still enjoy them.”

Now, every Thursday morning for almost a year, Rubertus has gone to Cub Foods to pick up another collection of flowers. A group of anywhere between 10 to 20 seniors meet in the craft room at Boutwells Landing that morning to go through what is worth keeping, place them in containers of water and make bouquets to place around different areas of the entire retirement community.

With Morrell’s experience as a florist, she teaches the group on how to manage the flowers correctly and shows various ways to arrange the bouquets. The group receives sometimes hundreds of flowers of all kinds, most of which are still usable.

“I tell the rest of the group to just imagine what you would want to see in your own garden, then just cut the stems and place them gently into the vase,” Morrell said.

While Rubertus admits that it can be a lot of work to prepare this every week, the reaction of joy she receives from people makes it all worthwhile.

“We sometimes wonder when we’re going to stop doing this, but it’s so rewarding that we can’t stop,” Rubertus said. “It’s unbelievable how much joy it brings to people.”

Contact Kevin Ott at kevin.ott@ecm-inc.com

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