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Falls florist delivering 707 bouquets to veterans

Melissa Mass arranges vases in the Karthauser & Son commercial greenhouse Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Germantown, Wis. Maas was creating 700 bouquets of flowers to be donated to the Wood VA Medical Center later in the week.

Melissa Mass arranges vases in the Karthauser & Son commercial greenhouse Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Germantown, Wis. Maas was creating 700 bouquets of flowers to be donated to the Wood VA Medical Center later in the week. Photo By Peter Zuzga

July 20, 2012

Menomonee Falls - Menomonee Falls Florist Melissa Maas wants to share smiles with those who need them the most.

As the owner of Bank of Memories & Flowers, W16723 Appleton Ave., Maas chose to use her passion and talent to make the day of more than 700 veterans who are being cared for at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee.

Maas organized a bouquet design day on Tuesday where she and fellow florists donated their time to create 707 flower bouquets. Thursday, the bouquets will be packed into vans and delivered to patients in every single ward at the VA Medical Center.

"Delivering them is what I love to do the most," Maas said. "There are so many wonderful people there that have done so much for us and it's a small little gesture for veterans to know we're proud of them and to say thank you on so many different levels."

Making people smile

This is the fifth year Maas is participating in Teleflora's Make Someone Smile Week. The flower company donates the keepsake Be Happy Mugs, which are yellow, decorated with smiley faces and then filled with flowers by local florists. Numerous wholesalers also help by donating their products, Maas said.

In its 13th year, the program has grown from 500 bouquets to more than 25,000 in 2011. All of the flowers are delivered for free in more than 200 cities by 1,000 local florists during Make Someone Smile Week, said Rich Salvaggio, vice president of industry relations and floral publications with Teleflora.

The program started after a small group of florists sent pictures to Teleflora that showed them delivering flowers to patients in a nursing home. The company loved the idea and decided to test the charitable program in 2000 with 500 florists scattered sporadically around the country. After the positive feedback and heartwarming stories that evolved from the pilot year, Teleflora kept the project going and expanded it across the U.S. In 10 years, more than 22,000 florists in the U.S. and Canada have donated their time. Teleflora's program has delivered more than 200,000 bouquets to those most in need of a smile, Salvaggio said.

Florists bring program to life

"This only happens because of how hard our florists work across the country," Salvaggio said. "For them, the best part of the opportunity is the chance to see why they do what they do the whole rest of the year. The impact that flowers have on someone who's not expecting them to come, makes their whole existence what it is."

Maas agreed. It is the considerable undertaking of creating and delivering hundreds of bouquets in one day, combined with the reward of seeing people's faces light up that she enjoys most about the program.

"It's just a really cool thing to donate my time in the sense of it's a challenge as a florist and that I can step up and use my talents," she said. "It's something I can do to give back and spread my passion to everyone else."

Every year, Maas chooses a different place locally for the bouquets to be delivered from a nursing home to an abuse shelter. This year, patients in every ward at the VA Medical Center will receive a bouquet. For veterans in the mental ward or intensive care unit who cannot receive perishable products, Maas purchased 50 soup packets to be placed in the Be Happy mugs.

"I wanted to make sure every single person had something," she said.

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