An interview with Patricia Mohan Gallagher
People touch our lives in myriad ways; sometimes before we even meet them face to face or hug to hug. Such was the case of Patricia Mohan Gallagher and me. When my husband died in 1998, a mutual friend named Yvonne Kaye gave me a gold pin with three angels parading across it. The cardboard tag it was attached to had these words emblazoned across it:
A TEAM OF ANGELS FOR THE OVERWHELMED
I need a team of angels, Lord
I don’t think one will do
Please send me all the help from high
For what I am going through.
Guardians to watch over me
And help my soul to cope
I’ll do the best I can to pray
And cherish gifts of faith and hope.
The seeds for these celestial beings, whose wings have taken them world-wide since she came up with the idea, were an answer to her own heart-felt prayer. Her life was falling apart, as she said:
My 25 year marriage was on the verge of ending
· One of my family members was seriously depressed
· My husband was downsized from his job
· Our family was in financial and emotional distress.
· My father was dying of throat cancer.
· I had four children to raise (two starting to rebel!)
· I had not worked outside the home in 23 years.
She then asked for angels to guide her and thus was born a new identity: The Angel Pin Lady. Fast forward 10 years and I am sitting in Sunday morning services at Circle of Miracles which is an interfaith community in New Britain, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia). Who should I hear being introduced but a statuesque blond haired woman with a contagious smile! I approached her and thanked her for her devotion to spreading the love and angelic energy to now over 78,000 people. We have become friends since then and I was delighted to have interviewed her for Bellesprit.
These days, Trish delivers love in floral form for residents in nursing homes and assisted living centers whose faces light up, since many feel forgotten and lonely.
After services at Circle of Miracles this past spring, she asked to have lunch together and as three of us sat enjoying our meal, I suggested that we take the extra bags of posies that she had in her car and flower flash mob folks in our little town. For the next few hours, we handed them out to tourists from Australia, couples who were meandering hand in hand, a father and his two children, as well as families in a coffee shop and book store.
One of the most adorable stories began when a young man who I noticed perched on top of a parking meter like an elf, dashed across the street and asked for us to give him flowers for his lady love Nicole who worked at a local gift shop. He informed us with a laugh that he called himself The Flower Bandit since in the summer, he picked wildflowers for her. We asked if we could witness his gift giving and we followed him in. She laughed, smiled and gratefully accepted the offering.
By the time the bags were empty, our hearts were full to overflowing and we can only guess the ripple effects that this random act of flowers created.
Edie: Can you give us some background on the woman behind the pins and now the floral bouquets?
Patricia: When I graduated from Villanova University, I taught for seven years. Elementary school and pre-school. After getting married, I joined my husband in enrolling in the MBA program at Saint Joseph’s University and we both found jobs in the corporate world. I worked in sales and marketing for Xerox and AT&T. After the birth of my first daughter Robin in 1982, my entrepreneurial spirit kicked in. I started a day care program in my home and then wrote a how-to book for other mothers which by beginner’s luck was published by Doubleday. Six books followed that one, five non-fictions and one as a Christmas CD for children. I always wrote about what I knew. Start Your Own At Home Child Care Business, Robin’s Play and Learn Book, So You Want to Open a Profitable Child Care Program, The Gift of Changing Yourself – Daily Thoughts for Women in Transition, No More Secrets- A Family Speaks about Anxiety, Depression and Attempted Suicide and Christmas on Lindbergh Mountain – The Untold Story of Santa on Christmas Eve.
Edie: What were the ‘seeds’ for the Flower Lady Project?
Patricia: In May of 2013, I attended a fundraiser at ActionAIDS which my daughter Kristen was organizing. At the end of the night, she passed out beautiful bouquets to the attendees. I asked her where they came from and she said that Trader Joe’s donated them because they are a non-profit organization. I called Trader Joe’s the next morning and inquired if I could pick them up on a regular basis and take them to nursing home residents. They asked if I was a non-profit organization and I was not – yet. I told Hannelore Goodwin (the minister at Circle of Miracles) about that and she “adopted the project” and gave me the paperwork to submit to Trader Joe’s. I average about five hundred bouquets a week – most weeks, I picked them up seven days a week.
Edie: What keeps it blossoming?
Patricia: I love doing it. It makes me happy. Yes, it is a lot of work and it is volunteer. After speaking at Circle of Miracles about the project, ten people committed to donating a hundred dollars. That amount paid for my gas and tolls until about October. It blossoms because I am so rewarded spiritually and emotionally by the joy and surprise that I see on the faces of the recipients.
Edie: How has it made a difference in your life and those of the folks who have been your ‘elves’?
Patricia: I have had several friends who came along with me a time or two and that has been nice. My two regular helpers were Bob Goodwin (Hannelore’s husband) and my mother. My mother was 88 and Bob was 90. They needed a purpose and we had a flower routine several mornings a week together. Stopped for coffee, had lunch, delivered flowers. Bob on a cane. My mother holding on to my arm for support. The flowers make a difference for the givers, the recipients, the store that donates feels good that they are not waste. The sales associates often tell me how glad they are that they do not have to throw them away anymore. And the visitors who witness what is happening…and the staff who receives a flowery recognition for their hard work. (Both Trisha’s mother and our friend Bob have since passed and they are now likely doing special delivery in Heaven) Image © Terree Yeagle, The Moment Photography
Edie: Why are random acts of kindness so important?
Patricia: Typically, I walk in unannounced and ask if I can bring flowers in to the residents. They are splendid bouquets and just what the doctor ordered to lift spirits. Mine and theirs. Sometimes it is a touch, a smile, any small act of kindness that is just what someone needs. You never know what burdens someone has in their heart. My mother’s favorite quote was “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, whenever you can, while you can, to whomever you can.” She truly lived random acts of kindness.
Edie: What is your biggest dream for the Flower Project?
Patricia: That the media can tell the story so that I can be the one to tell others step by step how to do the same project in their community.
Edie: How can people support your dream?
Patricia: I need financial donations to continue this project.
After passing out 20, 612 bouquets of beautiful flowers to strangers, there is something in my heart that is telling me that there is a new mission for me – to expand the Happy Flower Day project across the USA so lots of other people can do the same. I would like to be the national coordinator for the Happy Flower Day Project. I would like to do speaking engagements and media telling others how they can start a program in their community. What if scout troops, youth groups, corporate departments, kids doing service projects and PTA’s adopted this project. Just think if even 50 states did 20,000 deliveries in a year that would be a million people receiving the surprise gift of a donated bouquet. In reality, that is a low number. What if someone in each major city did the same? That would be many million. I am expecting a miracle. I have “unique” talents, gifts and abilities. I really do not know where God wants me to serve. But in my heart, if I could be anything, it would be The Flower Lady and The Angel Pin Lady. They are two projects that I created quite accidentally that have opened my heart in so many ways. I ask God to show me His will for my life. “God, please open the doors that you want me to go through and close the doors that are not for me. Please send someone to help.”
I cannot afford to do this on my own anymore. I have used my savings and my income now is a small social security amount and a very part-time job. The Flower Project is pretty much full-time. I would like to continue and believe in miracles. I believe that there are people out there who believe in the project and in me, and if they knew that their financial support could sustain this project……well, I think they would want to help.
It is no wonder with Patricia’s selfless acts of love and caring that we honor her as one of Bellesprit’s Beautiful Spirits!
If you feel called to support this worthy cause that has touched countless lives, please contact Trisha at www.patriciausa.com.
A few local news stories about the Flower Lady Project
Circle of Miracles www.circleofmiracles.org
Cover Image © Mary Farrell, Twilight Wish Foundation