Geraniums, as the sale is called, has gone from the first-year order of 600 flowers to 5,000 potted plants and hanging baskets in 2019. Currently, Pat O’Malley and Barb Endersen co-chair this event.
“The thing about Geraniums is everyone loves delivering flowers, who isn’t happy when you see beautiful flowers come through the door!” Pat said.
Liz Williams, one of the first Geranium volunteers shared, “We never have issues getting workers because it’s fun. We laugh and talk as we work. It’s not a job it’s an occasion!”
Marcia Storch recounted how this event got started twenty years ago, “At the time the fundraising committee consisted of Liz Williams, Molly Higgins, Marge Volante, Marion Scott, Ann Goergen, and me. We had one big event in the fall, Dancing Under the Stars, that was Maryann Scott’s baby. We decided to consider something for the spring, and the idea of flowers came up.”
No one remembers exactly who came up with the idea. But Liz & Marcia were in charge of the first event, geraniums were purchased from Miller’s Farm Market. About six-hundred geraniums were sold. Marica remembered Mr. Miller counting each pot of geraniums. Back then it was just the small pots of geraniums.
Liz Williams chuckled when she shared, “That first year we sold flowers out of the back of Miller’s truck. The next year, we were in Credit Union parking lot and so many people stopped in to get geraniums that we ran out, even for the people we already sold them to! Of course, we got more flowers and filled their order.”
Marcia continued, “It took a couple of years for us to get the word out, but once people knew about Genesis House, it’s services and saw the high-quality flowers they would get by donating- it was a winner!”
“I remember one year at Alcas, I helped deliver the order. The plants were in groups of twelve and put on the floor in the main lobby. Geraniums were everywhere. And as people walked by seeing others picking up their orders, they’d say things like, ‘If I’d have known they were that nice, I would have ordered some too.’ And that’s how we grew. We provided the service but the flowers were and are gorgeous.” Liz recounted.
As the number of geraniums increased the group needed to find a new supplier. They spoke to Dan Evans at Pleasant Valley who said we needed a grower; there was no local business that had the capacity to cultivate the numbers needed. Liz knew that Brigiotta's Farmland Produce & Garden Center, Inc. in Jamestown had the capacity to do this type of event. Brigiotta’s became the supplier and also allowed the group to offer hanging baskets (impatiens).
“They’ve been with us for quite a while now.The owner Tim Galbato has been a godsend,” Pat O’Malley shared. “He has been supportive, flexible and understanding. When you are working with hundreds of volunteers and thousands of orders over the years, things do sometimes get messed up,” Pat chuckles. “But we figure it out and make sure we have happy customers. We couldn’t have done this without Tim’s commitment to excellent customer service that includes high quality flowers.”
Pat also shared, “One year we took a tour of operation and green houses, there are four greenhouses just for Genesis House. Since we started, two or three other organizations in different geographic areas have also taken on similar projects.”
The first distribution site was at 1st Baptist Church’s auditorium on N. Union, but once the church had new carpet put in the fundraising group had to find a new place.
“I think that’s when we went to Gargoyle Park, although there may have been one other place in between these,” Marcia continued.
The City of Olean supports the event and ensures Gargolye is ready for the 150 volunteers to parse flowers, prepare deliveries and be able to feed people. They make sure the water is turned on, the electric is on and that there is access to bathrooms and the kitchen.
The way the event works is about hundred folders are distributed to churches, synagogues, businesses, medical facilities, and schools. In each of these organizations there is usually one or more point-persons (captains) who take all the orders. The captain then compiles his or her orders and sends them to the Co-Chairs who actually place the order.
“The volunteer captains who take the responsibility to sell the geraniums and impatiens are incredible, without their help and attention to detail, none of this could happen. We raise an average of around $16,000- $17,000. These funds are vital to Genesis House’s work helping people to get back on their feet and find permanent homes,” Pat O’Malley said.
Marcia Strotch and Liz Williams chaired this event for many years, but when Pat went down, to pick up her delivery for St. John’s Parish Liz suggested Pat needed more to do since retiring. And that was four years ago. “I shadowed Liz the first year, and then the next year Barb Endersen came on as co-chair, which was a big help,” Pat explained.
Barb had this to say, “I have volunteered at the geranium sale since retiring 10 years ago. When Pat asked me to co-chair the event with her, I readily agreed. It is such a fun event that I was happy to step up and do more.
When the plants are delivered to Gargoyle and the truck doors are opened, it is breathtakingly beautiful. All of the volunteers are oohing and aahing. It is very rewarding to be a part of the sale. Our community is blessed to have a place like Genesis House. Knowing the profits from the flower sale help keep it going and growing make working on Geraniums a true labor of love.”
You may like to watch this short video of the Geranium Sale from 2014
For more on Geraniums visit the Olean Times Herald at: http://www.oleantimesherald.com/news/local/geraniums-for-genesis-house-come-to-town/article_c39a8732-dd25-11e3-ba0f-0019bb2963f4.html