Thursday, September 02, 2004

Florist gives 15,000 roses away

A rose given away smells sweetest
Florist's giveaway pledges to draw out 15,000 extra smiles

Dozen free blooms come with one rule: Share the joy

JORDAN HEATH-RAWLINGS
STAFF REPORTER

Yellow is for friendship, pink for passion. White is for purity, and red for love.

A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.

But the smiles they make come in all shapes, sizes and ages.

"My husband never bought me roses," laughed 88-year-old June Kennedy, blushing happily as she looked down at the pink flower thrust into her hands by a stranger moments before in the Eglinton Square mall.

"Now I'm important. I'm special today."

Beaming, she manoeuvred herself into the growing line at Canadiana Florists, anxious to grab a dozen free roses herself and keep the cycle going.

"The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose," author Heda Bejar once wrote.

If so, then the scene in Eglinton Square yesterday gave new meaning to the term rosy palms. By mid-afternoon, leaves and petals littered the ground and smiles lit the faces of shoppers and storekeepers alike.

"That's how it works," said Canadiana Florists owner Stephen Mangos of his store's second annual Good Neighbour Day. "There will be 15,000 extra smiles in Toronto today."

Mangos decided last year to start participating in the FTD Florists Good Neighbour Day by giving out 15,000 free roses, packaged in dozens, and asking each recipient to give away 11 to deserving friends, neighbours and loved ones. Canadiana provided the flowers, worth about $40,000, free. All they asked in return was a donation to Toronto East General or the Hospital for Sick Children.

By the time the last rose was given away at about 1:30 p.m., Canadiana had raised more than $2,400 for the hospitals.

About 1,100 florists across North America participated in the 10-year-old FTD tradition this year, but Mangos and his brother Chris own the only Toronto store that joined in. In a mall that's the epicentre of a large elderly community around Victoria Park and Eglinton Aves., those blooms couldn't have found better homes.

"I'm giving one to each of my neighbours who couldn't get out today," said Greta Capranos, 67, who often brings back little gifts from the mall for the bedridden at her senior care home.

"They get lonely. Some of them don't have many visitors. You can buy them any tiny, little thing and you'd make their day, but a rose is more than that."

As she delivered her flowers yesterday, "people were asking me what they were for. I just told them that it's a rose for you because you should have a rose."

Many got caught up in the spirit and anyone in the mall with empty hands became a target.

"You deserve a rose, take one," an energetic Jeannette Thornton told shopper Hiep Nguyen, looking stunned but grateful after being blitzed by Thornton's flower giveaway.

"I love giving stuff away. I figure, if you give something meaningful away, then it was meaningful to give it," Thornton laughed. "I love roses. This is a small thing, sure, but it makes the world a better place."

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