SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The beginning of the new school year, with in-person contact after the pandemic, comes with a cheerful gift from Westerlay Orchids. Around 5,000 orchids are being distributed to teachers and staff members.
At a pre-school-year gathering at San Marcos High School, after some comments and information from the Santa Barbara Unified School District staff, the instructors and staff were met by students who gave them orchids of various colors.
Those students are part of the Flower Empower branch of the Dream Foundation.
Community-wide, Westerlay has donated 15,000 orchids for educators, senior living facilities, and cancer centers.
The company was very generous during the COVID-19 crisis and had flowers delivered to first responders in the medical field. There were also special boxes of flowers that could be sent as gifts to those who were confined at home.
When the plan to surprise the teachers with orchids was suggested it was given an A-plus.
"Absolutely they are an important resource in our community , " said Westerlay Orchids Chief Operating Officer Scott Zock.
As the school year begins in many districts, "we thought with back to school, honoring our teachers would be a wonderful way to utilize these orchids," said Kisa Heyer with the Dream Foundation.
Besides the Santa Barbara area educators, orchids will also be showing up this week in the Goleta and Carpinteria school districts.
Zock says the Dream Foundation has been an impressive resource when they have flowers to share with the community as part of the Westerlay outreach. "They have great ideas on how we can support the community at large and so we lean in on them and they bring us these opportunities."
The teachers were appreciative and many will share the gift with their students.
Sean Malis, a history teacher at San Marcos said, "to have the local community recognize what teachers do in the community is fantastic. These will be proudly displayed in my classroom."
Carrying an armload for herself and a friend, Ann Marie Galbraith from Monroe School said, "it is a feeling that we are appreciated especially the last couple of years that we had. It gives us a little push of encouragement that we are doing the right thing ."
Bill Dodson teaches government at Santa Barbara High and he will share the flowers with his students like many of the teachers. "It's going to brighten up our classroom for the first day and we really appreciate it. They are very kind to do so."
Those giving out the orchids were students from the Dream Foundation club who are often delivering flowers in the community.
Club President at San Marcos Stella Crawford said, "it just feels so good to give these to teachers because they work so hard and this is the first year they are coming back to normal without masks and it feels so good to give them this gift."
Westerlay Orchids is based in Carpinteria.
The Dream Foundation and its Flower Empower program are based in Santa Barbara.