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HUNTINGTON — Seniors at local assisted care facilities unable to visit with loved ones because of the COVID-19 outbreak received hundreds of flower donations Thursday morning from Gritt’s Midway Greenhouse located in Red House, West Virginia.

But residents received more than just Easter lilies and tulips — the “Send a Smile to a Senior” donations represented a sense of hope toward the future.

“It was born out of a need both for us and a need we saw seniors having — they weren’t allowing visitation anymore. We’ve all seen the shots of them meeting their grandchild for the first time through a window, or a loved one not being able to see them. I had volunteered at one of the local facilities, and it broke my heart,” said Nikki George, office manager at Gritt’s.

The greenhouse typically produces 7,000 to 9,000 bulbs during Easter season for churches, and amid the novel coronavirus spread, services were canceled, leaving staff with an excess of flowers to move.

“We knew that we were going to have a large number of pots that would have no homes, so we came up with the idea that would serve us and the seniors and would also allow the community to do something good,” George said. “What started as two facilities has become 26 facilities so far, and the orders are still coming.”

George said they made the decision to drop the price to $6.50 per pot, just enough to cover the pulling, safety protocol and delivery, allowing the community to purchase flowers to send to various senior centers across the Tri-State.

Each person who purchases a pot online also has the opportunity to write a note for the recipient.

“We print these notes — some of them are simple, and some are extremely kind,” George said. “We’ve had, ‘Know you’re not alone’ and ‘We are here with you.’”

On Thursday, flower deliveries were made at seven facilities, including Huntington Health and Rehabilitation Center and the Heritage Center.

“I’ve cried so many times today. We finished delivering the flowers, the whole management team came together, and it wasn’t just rewarding for the residents — it was rewarding for us, too,” said Ashley Fitzpatrick, recreation director at Heritage Center. “Especially at a time like this, this is a way to help our residents have a reason to smile.”

While Easter at the facility typically brings children from the community through the doors for an egg hunt and loved ones taking their parents or grandparents home for family dinner, Fitzpatrick said the donations gave residents a sense of excitement during an otherwise somber time.

“It doesn’t just make them smile today. It’s going to make them happy and smiling for the next couple of weeks, and it also allows us the opportunity to introduce gardening into their rooms as part of their activities, caring for their plants,” she said. “This will give them a reason to smile during the holiday.”

Although the project originally began as a way for locals to give back to their community, Fitzpatrick said the attached cards were addressed from people from all over the world.

“France, Chicago, you name it,” she said. “For them to know that people they don’t even know are thinking about them and praying for them, it’s amazing.”

George said the greenhouse still has thousands of flowers to move, and as long as orders continue, they will find seniors to share them with.

Those interested can purchase flowers at www.gritts.com/product-page/send-a-smile-to-a-senior.

Follow reporter Hanna Pennington via Twitter @hpennHD.

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