Westside Pacific Villages surprises area seniors with bouquets of joy

By Christina Campodonico

WPV volunteers fanned out from Playa del Rey to deliver flowers to local seniors
Photo by Luis Chavez

On April 24, some area seniors were surprised by an extra special delivery — fresh flowers!

After fanning out from Playa del Rey, volunteers delivered around 140 bouquets to seniors in Westchester, Playa Vista, Mar Vista and Ladera Heights. The colorful posies, made possible through a donation by the Delavigne Family of Playa del Rey to cheer up isolated seniors and support local businesses, were arranged by Culver Boulevard florist Flowers by Felicia and delivered as part of Westside Pacific Villages’ COVID-19 response.

The nonprofit is also doing free grocery delivery and pharmacy pickups for area seniors during this time, but WPV’s Executive Director Carol Kitabayashi soon realized that seniors couldn’t live off bread and water alone, so to speak. The idea for weekly care packages came “naturally.”

“Once a week, we do a special delivery to the folks … to cheer them up,” said Kitabayashi. Two Fridays ago, it happened to be flowers.

“Everyone I delivered to lit up when they saw the flowers,” said Darlene Fukuji, a WPV volunteer and President of the Westchester Rotary. “They loved it. They were like, ‘Oh my gosh, flowers! …. I haven’t received flowers in a long time.’”

One flower recipient followed up with a grateful message to WPV’s voicemail, recalled Kitabayashi.

“This one lady, she said: ‘I went outside just to get some air and see this beautiful bouquet of flowers.’ … She said it was really nice that they would brighten up their home.”

Other goodies included cookies provided by The Rotary Club of Playa Venice Sunrise and a stress ball in the shape of an airplane. Previous care packages have come with hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, face masks and candy. Last Friday, WPV delivered hot meals from Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Restaurant in Playa del Rey. Real estate development company Legado sponsored the meals and has donated a staging area on Culver Boulevard for WPV’s use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the future, Kitabayashi hopes to assemble more care packages with health and wellness guides and much-needed items such as hand soap and toilet paper through the help of sponsorships and donations that also support local businesses.

“They’ve been impacted by this whole situation,” she says, “so if we can help them out and help out our clients and there are sponsors and donors willing to help, it’s a win-win.”

For Fukuji, it’s just beautiful to able to connect with seniors in this way — even if it’s from behind a mask.

“This is a generation that took care of us. They laid the foundation for the wonderful things in life that we have, and they deserve to be treated with respect and be taken care of, just as they have taken care of us,” she says. “I see my grandparents in every single one of them. It’s a natural connection.”

Visit thewpv.org to learn how to sign up, donate or volunteer.