by: Submitted Photo  - Volunteer Vernon Roberson brings flowers from Bend to Mountain View Hospice in Madras every Wednesday.

Madras area hospice patients' rooms are now being brightened with floral gifts from the Friends With Flowers of Oregon program.
   The Bend-based nonprofit group, founded by Heidi Berkman, collects donations of flowers from grocery stores, flower shops, weddings, conventions, and funeral homes and rearranges them in vases to distribute to hospice patients in Deschutes, Crook, and now Jefferson counties.
   In January, the group was able to expand to Madras after Vernon Roberson, who commutes from Bend to Madras, volunteered to deliver flowers to Mountain View Hospice. Roberson is the manager of East Cascade Retirement Community in Madras.
   Roberson said he'd heard about Friends With Flowers and then saw their flyer while shopping at a Bend mall and called the phone number.
   "It just sounded like a real cool thing to do," Roberson said, adding, "I've been an administrator (in health care) for 10 years and seen the work hospice does, and wanted to be a part of it."
   He learned Friends With Flowers wanted to bring the service to Madras, but didn't have a person to transport the arrangements. So, he volunteered and took the training.
   Berkman, who is a professional event planner, hated seeing perfectly good flowers thrown away after events. She found out about the Friends With Flowers program started by florist Randy McManus in Greensboro, N.C., and opened her own deliveries in 2007 operating out of her garage.
   She organized volunteers to pickup donated flowers, arrange and deliver them to hospice centers. Hospice care workers then take the flowers to their patients, and also share with family members of the patients.
   "When I first started, I'd pick up flower donations from Fred Meyer and Trader Joe's, and it would fill up the back of my truck," Roberson said.
   Now, every Wednesday during his commute, he picks up arrangements at the workshop in Bend and drops 10-12 off at Redmond Hospice, and eight to 10 off at Mountain View Hospice.
   The goal is to brighten up the day for hospice patients. "So many times in life, it's those little moments that carry you over when things get tough," Roberson said.
   For more information about Friends With Flowers, call 541-480-8700. Clear glass vases can be donated at Mountain View Hospice.
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