Loretta Heiser had been living at Deerfield for a year when in 2008 she and other residents asked the dining staff why they used artificial flowers on the tables - why not use fresh flowers? The question started a new tradition, known as BLT (Bring Love to Tables) that continues eight years later.
A handful of volunteers jumped into the flower business plucking flowers from gardens, and a local grower who came to Deerfield weekly. There were some church and wedding donations that helped fill vases that would adorn the thirty-five tables in the old Bistro.
Occasionally residents would pile into cars and race to places like The Grove Park to pick up a wedding donation, and at one time a charity called Second Bloom joined in by delivering flowers from all sorts of events.
There wasn’t much of a budget for flowers, foam, and vases in those days, but resident donations soon began trickling in and the dining staff pitched in to wash the vases and clean up spilled water. This jolly band of volunteers that has grown to twenty members has a great time swapping stories, singing, and reading poetry while they work. Everyone finds something they’re comfortable doing, and nobody gets fired.
The project has grown to include 107 dining tables, the Memorial Table, private functions, and Deerfield events. The volunteer team has grown to over twenty, and a push cart was provided by Chef Cary to make the table deliveries. Every member of the team has a job,some arrange, some water, others pushcarts, cut foam, or store material.
The routine includes pulling flowers from the tables after Monday dinner and getting the dishes washed. Tuesday is cut and prep day, and Wednesday morning is the time to arrange, and then delivery carts raced around Deerfield placing vases on tables.
There have been lessons learned along the way, such as the fact that fresh flowers from the gardens sometimes came with bugs and never really liked indoor life. BLT was able to convince Ecuador growers that Deerfield wasn’t competing with florists so they could get quick shipments of beautiful newly cut flowers that would last.
Donation needs grew and fundraising efforts included parties hosted by residents in the various apartment buildings, two Dog Shows - which also featured cats on leashes, and in 2016 a successful Tour of Homes for residents took place which raised over $5,000, and we cannot forget the occasional envelopes slid under Loretta’s door.
The BLT volunteers, lead by Loretta Heiser, are looking forward to another year of bringing love to the tables, one vase at a time.