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Neighboring florists step in to help provide flowers for Uvalde funerals


UVALDE, Texas — At The Flower Patch in Uvalde, Texas, a group of florists are volunteering to put together flower arrangements for funerals of the 19 children and two teachers killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School.

Store owner Kelly Baker said she's putting aside sunflowers for one of the victims, the daughter of one of her high school classmates. "Their baby's favorite was sunflowers," Baker said.

"As we start making these arrangements, we're going to make sure and save sunflowers for this baby so that her family gets just a tiny bit of what she wanted — or what she would have wanted — for her service," she added.

In a tiny town where most everyone knows someone directly impacted by the deadly shooting, florists like Baker have been flooded with orders for colorful wreaths and arrangements. Funeral services began this week and will continue throughout the middle of June.

"Most arrangements take a good 30 to 45 minutes apiece to make," Baker said. "We are making thousands."

Veronica Berger, owner of Ahr's Flower Shop in LaCoste, Texas, drove about an hour in her flower van to lend a helping hand.

"Florists are the only ones who know how to get through this," Berger said. "It is very hard work but it's very fulfilling. ... When this tragedy happened, we knew exactly what we needed to be doing."

Berger is one of many people who have come to help Baker, who said she's received help in form of donations and physical labor.

"We've probably got about 12 people in there right now designing behind the scenes that y'all don't see," Baker said. "And they're all volunteering from all over the world."

Farms and other shops have also donated their floral supplies, Baker said. Need green lilies? Done. Pink peonies? They are on their way.

"We're very lucky that we have not wanted for a color or a style of flower," Berger said.

In the back room of the store, there are a handful of workstations with greenery on tables and colorful ribbons on the walls. There are buckets of flowers lining the cramped space. It's an organized chaos. On one wall there are names of the victims, with dozens of order forms attached to their names.

Some of the florists chat as they work, and others deliver arrangements to the Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary next door.

Former Uvalde resident Leslie Garza, who is a florist based in San Antonio, drove down to help Baker as soon as she realized how many funerals there would be.

"She's my friend. I knew I had to come. So we're to help her until she's got this under control," Garza said.

On Monday, the community will gather for a rosary and visitation for 10-year-olds Amerie Jo Garza and Maite Yuleana Rodriguez. Rodriguez loved animals and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, and Garza was passionate about swimming and drawing and hoped to become an art teacher.

NPR's Pien Huang contributed to this report. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.