photo by Byron Roe

Heidi Berkman had an epiphany. The event planner resisted throwing out the large bouquets of fresh flowers from the weddings and events she coordinated. She also remembered how on a grey day in January 2002, a loved one and extended family member in hospice got an unexpected gift. “Flowers were delivered to the room,” said Berkman. “They were colorful, and they changed the environment. It gave us something to talk about other than the obvious. They were positive memories.” It was this sentiment that led Berkman to found The Bloom Project.

photo by Byron Roe

Operating out of her garage with volunteer friends and donated flowers, she began to create arrangements to deliver to hospice partner organizations within her community. Many of her volunteers’ family members had some experience with hospice care and immediately rallied to the cause. Berkman had found a way for them to give back and recycle, yet provide a beautiful gift.

photo by Byron Roe

“Some of our volunteers daydream about the bouquets they are arranging and who they will go to,” said Berkman, 46. “If they sense it will go to a man, they’ll include deeper-hued flowers. Often times we find that men have never received flowers before in their life.”

The bouquets often affect more hearts than just those of the patients who receive them. “They tell me it makes their jobs easier,” Berkman said of the nurses, social workers and chaplains who deliver the bouquets to patients. “It boosts morale, and it changes the conversation.”

photo by Byron Roe

Today, The Bloom Project has three donated workspaces—Central Oregon, Portland and the Sacramento region—and accepts donations of flowers from businesses, community members and special events. At each Bloom Project location is a “Paycheck Wall,” a façade covered in emails, cards and stories of how their floral creations changed lives. Next to the wall is a box of Kleenex. “The outpouring can be overwhelming,” Berkman said.

photo by Byron Roe

The first Bloom Project began in Bend. In January 2013, the Portland location opened. “There is such a large community in Portland, and we wanted the opportunity to share our story and raise awareness,” said Berkman, who grew up and currently resides in Portland. “Sooner or later hospice will touch each one of us.”

In April, The Bloom Project launched its services with Keizer Hospice, one of the largest hospice programs in the state. The Bloom Project plans to continue developing relationships with hospice organizations throughout the Portland metro area and Vancouver, and expanding their floral partners and volunteer opportunities.

photo by Byron Roe

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