NORRISTOWN — For years to come they may be calling this the “Miracle on George Street.”
With its modest array of scarlet red poinsettias, anyone walking into the church shared by Living Water Outreach Worship Center and Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Norristown would appreciate the attempts to bedeck the space with a touch of Christmas spirit.
Yet Living Water member Terry Cobbs lamented the absence of more plants.
“I came in this morning to decorate the church for Christmas, and normally we have poinsettias in the windows too,” Cobbs said on Thursday. “We just didn’t have enough of them, but I’m here just trusting that we’re going to get what we need.”
If there is a direct correlation between prayers and instant results, then many might agree with Cobbs that a miracle gave the tiny church on George Street exactly what it needed at that moment, in the form of Patricia Gallagher.
Gallagher is a zealous, impassioned woman who rounds up the flowers at Trader Joe’s stores that are slightly beyond their shelf life and hands them out to folks who may be disheartened and will find Gerbera daisies uplifting, even if they are a little droopy and past their prime.
Last May, Gallagher christened her game plan The Happy Flower Day Project, and on Thursday she hand-delivered some of that floral happiness quite by accident to the George Street church, presided over by Bishop Dennis Joell and Valerie Joell (Shiloh) and Pastor Darin Clark (Living Water.)
“I was driving by and saw the sign for the soup kitchen and pulled over,” Gallagher said, referring to the free meals provided by the church each week. “Every day I ask God where I should go that day.”
“And today God said come on down George Street, ” Valerie said, laughing.
To the grateful folks who had been praying for the flowers and gladly accepted the gift from out of the blue, Gallagher was nothing less than an angel and one of Santa’s elves combined.
“It’s nothing but God doing this,” Cobbs said as she carefully deconstructed the bouquets and then arranged the white mums and Gerbera daisies in glass vases. “Real flowers are important in a church. I grew up going to a church that always had real flowers.”
Gallagher got the idea of rescuing what she calls “day old” flowers from a fundraiser her daughter had staged with the help of Trader Joe’s.
“It got me thinking, ‘I wonder what they do with their old flowers,’ because they get new shipments in all the time and they pride themselves on everything being really fresh,” she ssaid. “So even if it’s a little wilted, they just leave it for me. It helps Trader Joe’s, because they know their flowers aren’t going to waste; it helps the senior volunteers who help me because it gives them a purpose, and it gives me a purpose. And the recipients love them, and the people who witness it are happy about it too.”
Gallagher and her 90-year-old, harmonica-playing volunteer Bob pick up the flowers at the North Wales and Jenkintown Trader Joe’s stores just about every day.
“Every morning I call and tell them I’m coming by, and today the Jenkintown store had about 140 bouquets, and North Wales had about 50,” she said.
Mostly, Gallagher distributes them to senior centers and nursing homes, as she brightens the day with flowers for every toll collector, construction worker and pedestrian she passes along the way.
“You can give out 200 bouquets in an hour,” she said. “I found out that 60 percent of the people in these nursing communities don’t have any family or visitors. I walk in and everybody’s heads are down and I say ‘OK, close your eyes, I’m going to put something on your lap. And when they open their eyes they say ‘Why are you giving me flowers?’ I tell them it’s flower day they say they never heard of it.”
Gallagher then explains that it’s not a national holiday — it’s something she made up.
With her recently attained nonprofit status and up-to-the-minute website that details many of her Happy Day deliveries (www.happyflowerday.com), Gallagher is hoping a miracle of her own may soon come along by way of support for her efforts.
“Every day I just say, ‘God, if you want me to continue doing this, please let someone come forward and help me with all the expenses, like the gas and tolls.”
That week she had filled the tank of her car three times at her own expense — $48 a pop — to deliver the flowers.
She believes that there are plenty of folks out there for whom a donation may ease some guilt they may be feeling.
“I had one man tell me he hadn’t visited his mother in a home in five years,” she said. “If somebody like that who doesn’t have the interest helped with a small donation, they might feel good that, although they’re not visiting their mother, they’re enabling somebody to hand out 10 bouquets.”
Believe it or not, the Happy Flower Day Project lady said there was a time when she hated flowers.
“When my husband would give them to me I’d say, ‘Honey,that was a waste of money. Don’t spend money on flowers.’ But now,” she added, “I love flowers.”
For more information, call 267-939-0365.