Growing Compassion: A Blooming Labor of Love

Rozelle Copeland delivers fresh-cut flowers she grew from seed to Trish Jackson at the Reichert Health Center front desk.

On an unusually grey August afternoon, a mason jar of brilliantly colored zinnias and marigolds adorns the welcome desk at the Reichert Health Center. Behind the bouquet, Trish Jackson is deep in conversation with patients and visitors looking for directions to their various appointments. Her face lights up as she sees someone walking up to the desk with a second jar of summer flowers.

“Are those more for me?” she exclaims.

“Yes,” Rozelle Copeland answers with a smile.

Trish, the beloved welcome receptionist at Reichert, is one of the stops on Rozelle’s weekly flower delivery route at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. And although Rozelle has been hand delivering fresh-cut flowers to Trish for two summers in a row, Trish always grins ear-to-ear as if she’s receiving them for the first time.

This is what Rozelle looks forward to each week. It’s one of the reasons, she says, she grows flowers from seed and nurtures them until they’re ready to be enjoyed by patients and visitors.

“This program is a way to enhance our remarkable care with remarkable compassion and reflect our mission of providing a healing presence within our communities and core value of serving those who are poor,” Rozelle shares with St. Joe’s employees who volunteer with the program.

Despite her green thumb, gardening isn’t Rozelle’s day job. Rozelle Copeland, PhD, is in fact a research compliance specialist at the hospital, working with the Institutional Review Board, educating researchers, conducting audits and writing policies and procedures. She rarely, if ever, interacts directly with patients.

Perhaps that’s why she felt a strong urge to connect with people like Trish, the faces on the front line.

“I’m not the bubbly people person, but it’s a way that I can help her do what she’s doing, and help people. It’s a way that I can connect with people behind the scenes,” Rozelle said.

Rozelle’s labor of love begins in February or March, when she plants seeds in pots at her home. Around the end of May, Rozelle transfers the plants to a plot in the staff garden at The Farm at St. Joe’s. From there, Rozelle visits her flower bed three to four times a week to water and feed until bright yellow, orange and pink sprigs are ready to be cut, arranged and delivered.

Rozelle started the program, named Growing Compassion, at The Farm at St. Joe’s last year, and this summer she recruited several St. Joe’s employees to help cut and deliver flowers to the front desks at Michigan Heart, the Women’s Health Center, Pain Institute, Wound Care check-in and the outpatient oncology labs, in addition to her own deliveries to the Reichert front desk and lab. Both Carol Carulli, RN, a manager at Michigan Heart, and Pat Snell, who works in the hospital’s general lab, have been cutting and delivering flowers all summer.  Some new volunteers to the program are Dr. Brian Halloran, a vascular surgeon, and Kristin Hammett, manager of patient registration.

Carol Carulli delivers flowers to the Michigan Heart lobby.

Rozelle wants to expand her project to one day deliver flowers directly to patients across the hospital.

“It’s part of our mission,” she said. Knowing the flowers brighten peoples’ days makes her small gesture well worth its time and efforts.

“What I would hope they feel is that there’s people here that care about them,” she added.

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