OLEAN — Gargoyle Park was a sea of color Thursday when approximately 80 volunteers unloaded, sorted and delivered thousands of geranium plants and hanging baskets to benefit the Genesis House homeless shelter.
Liz Williams, chairperson of the event, said the community ordered more than 5,000 plants, which includes a second order that will be delivered in the upcoming week. She said there were 4,092 geranium plants and 642 hanging baskets on the three delivery trucks that arrived early Thursday.
“We’re pleased with the response from the community — and it’s not only from Olean, we’re selling these at churches in Randolph, too,” she said. “We’re selling at churches and industries, and we have people selling at all of the schools, the hospital and the doctors’ offices.”
Mrs. Williams said the fundraiser continues to grow each year.
“During our first year, our goal was $500; the chairperson was Marcia Storch, and I helped her,” Mrs. Williams said. “Now we’re clearing probably $17,000.”
She said Brigiotta’s Produce and Garden Center in Jamestown is one of the reasons the benefit is as successful as it is.
“Brigiotta’s now has two greenhouses just for Genesis House geraniums,” Mrs. Williams said. “And they deliver for free … we’re not making them rich, that’s for sure.”
Pat O’Malley, co-chairperson of the event, said she has helped with the fundraiser since retiring from teaching.
“It’s a good cause, and everybody loves the flowers,” Ms. O’Malley said of the homeless shelter’s largest annual fundraisers.
Volunteers on hand at the event included Terry Brairton, owner of Paul Brown Dodge, Jeep and Ram in Olean.
“It’s kind of a community here, you see a lot of the same people here every year,” Mr. Brairton said. “I do this because it’s for a good cause.”
Mr. Brairton said one of his staff members accompanied him to the event, and other dealership employees helped deliver the flowers.
Another volunteer, Meme Yanetsko of the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce, said she took a day off of work to help with the project. She started helping with the benefit approximately five years ago because her father Dave Krahe was involved with it.
“It’s a nice father-daughter thing to do, and now my daughter is helping out, too,” Mrs. Yanetsko said. “It’s a good fundraiser and very good to help out Genesis House.”
Longtime volunteer Gail Cross said she also enjoys helping with the project.
“Every year it seems to get bigger; they sell themselves,” Ms. Cross said of the flowers. “And you can see that the community is here.”
New volunteers included Peggy and Pete Wallen, who said they had purchased the flowers in the past, but wanted to help this year.
“We’re retired, so we thought ‘Well, we can do this,’” Mrs. Wallen said.
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at email@example.com)