On Nov. 14, Doug Hutchins brightened the lives of nearly two hundred men and women living in Grapevine nursing and retirement homes by delivering with volunteers nearly 200 bouquets of flowers, house shoes and hats.
He called it Deliver Grapevine.
“Are these for me?” was a common response.
One woman told a deliverer, “I really needed these.”
The now annual tradition dates to years ago. Hutchins, now 29, volunteered for hospice care for a service project his freshman year at Dallas Baptist University.
Often he found elderly people who were forgotten, lonely and depressed.
Over the years, it left him with a sadness and desire to help people in a place where they can be the most vulnerable — assisted living homes for the elderly.
So last year, the Grapevine resident decided to start a project where he would deliver flowers to every woman in Grapevine’s two nursing homes: Woodridge Health & Rehabilitation at Grapevine and Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation.
He delivered a big bouquet of flowers to every woman.
“It’s so small, but it can make such an impact on a person,” said the Grapevine man. “It could be her last gift. It’s an honor to potentially give someone their last gift on earth.”
This year, Hutchins expanded his project to include the men. They received house shoes and baseball caps — gifts the administrators said they wanted most.
Hutchins, a salesman, said the idea was born out of a desire “to set a legacy that will last more than my lifetime.”
Hutchins said he is occasionally asked what a 29-year-old single man has in common with the elderly who do not live with family or friends.
“We all experience loneliness in our own way,” he said. “When I think about this, there’s this pain and we want to empathize and help ease it. We don’t have a lot in common, but we have enough. Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Although he respects those who travel to other countries to offer assistance, Hutchins said, “There is more pain in a one-mile radius than you can even imagine. The pain here in Grapevine is harder to see than in some third-world countries because it is indoors.”
So last year, he created a program called Deliver Grapevine. Its purpose is “to recognize our neighbors who feel forgotten, surprise our neighbors who are given so few surprises, encourage our neighbors who receive so little encouragement and visit our neighbors who see hardly any visitors.”
The inaugural tradition was simply for the Grapevine community to deliver flowers along with encouraging notes to women in local nursing and rehabilitation homes.
“These women are the treasure of our community,” Hutchins said.
The tradition was a way to honor “137 special women” who received a “beautiful surprise” last year on Nov. 13.
“To watch their faces light up with joy was a sight to see,” the project founder said.
In promoting his idea, he used social media, word of mouth and other avenues to enlist volunteers to help fund the project and deliver flowers. More than 50 people helped by delivering flowers, writing cards, promoting the cause on social media, passing out fliers, creating a promotional video and making donations.
Each note began: “Dear neighbor” and the outside of the card read, “Adored.”
“For those women who felt alone and forgotten, we wanted to refresh her with the news that these flowers are from someone who is right down the street from her,” Hutchins said.
“It was from someone who still cares about her,” Hutchins added. “It was from someone who had not forgotten about her. It was from her neighbors.”
The volunteers hand-delivered the flowers.
They also questioned who the flowers could be for.
“As most of the ladies laid there gazing at the TV, when we walked in with a colorful bouquet their faces showed life once again,” a deliverer told Hutchins. “Most of them stared for a minute and then the stare was quickly followed by a big smile. One lady just beamed and went on to tell us about the garden she and her mom used to plant. It was so sweet.”
Letters of appreciation included one from a woman who said, “I want to thank you for the gorgeous flowers. They have really blessed me in a way the words would not describe. No one has given me flowers since Valentine’s Day 1999. So once again, thank you.”
Hutchins is thrilled that the tradition not only continued this year, but was upgraded to include the men.