Before 10 a.m. on Sunday, Pamela Lerner and Jane Tierney were already popping in a wax flower here, an alstroemeria stalk there, in clear glass vases as they worked on the seven bountiful arrangements the South Country School District would receive, targeted to teachers.
“They’ll be displayed in each school’s community room so all the teachers can enjoy looking at them,” said Lerner in her storefront. “Board members will pick them up from us.”
Bellport High School and middle schools, Frank P. Long Intermediate, Kreamer Street Elementary, Verne Critz Elementary, Brookhaven Elementary and The Southhaven Annex, were on the list for a floral bouquet delivery, all with a beautiful framed letter: “Wishing we could thank you every day,” a gorgeous pro bono print design by Teresa Platt of TSP Design.
The floral gifts were sponsored by the South Country Education Foundation Inc., of which Lerner is a board mem- ber. Tierney, who owned a floral shop in Brooklyn Heights for 20 years, volunteered to help with the arrangements and is a Bellport Garden Club civic chair.
“This one’s drooping,” said Lerner of a white hydrangea’s heavy bough.
“You need some ivy,” replied Tierney, quick on the draw with a solution.
The assortment, which included those mentioned as well as ruby-red hypericum berries, were a bouquet fit for a Downton Abbey manor house.
As is usual with volunteer projects, stories came out.
It was Robin Young Roe’s idea; Roe is president of the SCEF.
“We have two teachers on the board,” she said, admiring the flower array.
“People working from home are doing the same job, but teachers have to reinvent theirs and go the extra mile, including going to the homes of students to help them hook up to their lessons,” Roe said. “I thought flowers always make people feel good just looking at them.”
“The board was all over it,” agreed SCEF vice president Diane Zanazzi. “For me, I have flowers in the house all the time,” said Lerner. “It’s spiritual and uplifting.”
“It’s called biophilia,” added Lerner’s staffer Sam Mayo. “It’s our natural instinct to be surrounded by nature.”
Tierney said when she got into the florist business in the early 1980s, there were hardly any in the city and what was offered was mostly lackluster.
“I was from Sayville and lived in New York and also traveled to Europe,” she said. “They had and still have flower markets all over there.”
Lerner asked Tierney to help, and voila! She’s done it before. Tierney said BGC members would again grace the businesses’ flower boxes with cheery plants this summer and “we’re also planning a project for small children.” They offer scholarships to Bellport students and have a tree fund among other impactful efforts.
“It’s great the garden club volunteered,” Roe said. “In these times we have to work together.”
Roe pointed out the collaborative efforts the nonprofit SCEF spurs, and recounted its establishment 22 years ago. “We were organized by locals like Art Cooley and Tom Williams and we deal with the entire school population,” she said.
The SCEF holds an annual fundraiser for projects.
“It’s through small grants, but we might bring a tower garden to grow vegetables to a school,” she said as an example.
So far, they’ve granted over $1 million to teachers, administrators, students and community groups who present inno- vative ideas. The imaginative realm of grants includes the arts.
“By the time they graduate, at least one student will have been touched by our grants,” Roe said.