“I love connecting with people in a simple way.
“To connect with people, you don’t need balloons or a marching band, or any grand gesture. All you need is the simple act of a ‘hello,’ a simple conversation, a hand-written note, and flowers always do the trick.”
Long-time Haddonfield resident Leona Davis, founder and owner of Forget Me Knot Flowers, was one of 14 recipients of the Camden County Freedom Medal during a Jan. 22 ceremony in Collingswood.
Through her nonprofit venture, whose mission is to redesign wedding-reception flowers into bouquets for distribution to residents in hospitals, women’s shelters and care facilities throughout South Jersey, Davis is living proof of the power of simple actions.
During a conversation with the Sun on Jan. 20, Davis recounted the first time her flowers were delivered to the Camden County Women’s Center several years ago.
“We brought these beautiful flowers in bouquets. We didn’t know how we were going to give them to the girls, but thought, ‘let’s call each one to the office and hand it to them,’ and that’s what we did,” Davis related.
“With each gift, they said ‘happy you day,’ and it was so beautiful to hear those words, acknowledging them and reminding them that ‘you are loved and you are valuable.’ It just solidifies everything we do.”
Davis and her dedicated team of volunteers personally deliver the bouquets, giving recipients – those dealing with injuries, illness or trauma – a chance to see how making connections through gestures like notes, flowers and storytelling can uplift the spirit.
An organization whose purpose seeks to mollify some heavy emotions had a humble, but practical beginning.
“Our daughter was getting married in 2016, and you get the flower bill and you realize the flowers will only be used for four to five hours. I asked the question, what’s going to happen to the flowers at the end of the night? And they said they’d probably be trashed. And this was totally unacceptable to me. I couldn’t fathom the idea of throwing perfectly good flowers away,” Davis explained.
“I asked (my daughter) Christina what she wanted to do, and she said she wanted to donate them. So we looked for a service that provided what we do, and we couldn’t find one, so we said we’d have someone pick them up at the end of the night, and we’d restyle them the next day and then we could take them to a nursing home.”
Davis recognized right away how meaningful the arrangements were to those who were in need, witnessing with every delivery how facial expressions and body language became more bright and alive.
“So, we thought we can’t let it just stop here. The seed was planted for Forget Me Knot. We just continued the work, and built the organization and realized there was a real need for this kind of service,” she added.
As of the turn of the new year, Davis stated Forget Me Knot has delivered more than 12,000 bouquets in 2.5 years of operation.
Healing is not limited to recipients, though. Davis spoke of one volunteer who thanked her for the opportunity to help others, saying, “Thank you for taking me out of my life for a bit.”
Davis was also taken out of her life for a little while in dealing with the shock and surprise of being nominated for the Freedom Medal – and finding out the nomination was made by Jen Richman, a Cherry Hill resident and 2019 medal recipient.
“I don’t even know her. It was somebody who’s been watching us and watching our activity and was impressed by it, and she nominated us. It was her, and her friend Angela McFadden. Evidently they got wind of what we’re doing, was inspired by it and wanted us to be recognized for it,” she said.
“I’m just so surprised and shocked, but just so grateful that this work is being acknowledged. I’m very thankful for that.”
Davis, a Gibbstown native, and her husband, originally from Paulsboro, were happy enough to be ensconced in the borough when they arrived 30 years ago, but the success of her business has made those roots grow even deeper.
“We wanted to raise our family here and we knew what a beautiful place it was to live.”
For more information, price quotes and volunteer opportunities with Forget Me Knot, visit https://forgetmeknotflowers.org/.