At just 11 years old, best friends and Owings Mills residents Abby Levin and Lexi Thomas have a pretty packed schedule. On top of their middle and religious school classes and extracurricular activities, the two also operate Flowers for Powers, a nonprofit organization they founded that provides flower arrangements to the elderly, hospital patients or, as Lexi said, "people who just need some cheering up or have been through a lot."
Through the organization, the girls have delivered flowers to people battling cancer, residents of nursing homes, hospital patients and others.
The idea for Flowers for Powers came about last May, when the girls spotted some flowers growing in the common area between Lexi's house and the neighboring yard.
"There was a bunch of flowers, and they were so big and they were pretty and our minds just couldn't resist and we just looked at each other and jumped over her fence and went to go pick one," Abby said.
It didn't take long before the two realized that the happiness those flowers brought them could extend to people in need, as well.
"We toyed with the fact that we were very excited to see these flowers and we should give them to other people who might need cheering up," Abby said.
The girls originally intended to give a one-time flower donation to Futurecare-Cherrywood, a nursing home in Reisterstown, but after seeing the positive feedback from the residents, they decided to extend their efforts.
"We thought that [we should donate more frequently] because we realized as we were giving flowers out how their reactions were really happy ... and we kind of really loved the feeling knowing that we made someone's day and so we continued to do it," Abby said.
Abby's mom, Lisa Levin, said she was pleasantly surprised to see the idea grow from a one-time donation to an organization designed to help others.
"We [me and Lexi's mom, Sherri] thought it was such a great way for two 10-year-olds to spend the day together instead of watching TV, instead of being on their devices, they wanted to make flower arrangements and deliver it," she said. "Neither one of us thought it would be anything other than the activity of the day, but when it blossomed into something more than that, we couldn't not support it."
When the girls mentioned their desire to make repeated and more frequent flower donations, moms Sherri and Lisa stepped up to help create the organization and maintain its financial and business-related requirements.
"They're the actors and we're the producers," Lisa said. "They're 11, they can't do the bookkeeping ... so they deliver the flowers and they can't drive so we have to drive them to the hospitals; we have to drive them to the nursing homes …We're the back office."
Sherri and Lisa filed the paperwork to make Flowers for Powers a nonprofit and created a Facebook page and website to spread the word about the girls' work. Meanwhile, Abby and Lexi used flowers purchased from Giant to create arrangements for their deliveries. But it wasn't long before word of their work reached a local flower shop. After seeing the Flowers for Powers Facebook page, the owners of Flowers and Fancies in Owings Mills reached out to the girls.
"I came across their organization on Facebook and it blew me away what the two girls were doing, and I heard they were located here in Owings Mills, and I thought there's no reason why we shouldn't be involved too," said Eric Wingrat, vice president of operations at Flowers and Fancies. "I think it's great for the community and I thought it would be great to help them out. What they're doing is really inspiring in bringing smiles to the people they're helping. They're lifting sprits where they go and helping whatever the situation may be with the people who are receiving flowers and we just wanted to be involved in whatever way that we could."
Flowers and Fancies now donates all of the flowers necessary for the girls' donations, as well as other materials to help with the organization.
"We provide the flowers — on occasion we'll provide the vases and we also have them coming here on occasion into our warehouse to produce the items," Wingrat said. "We've set them up with some of our professional designers and they've … worked hand-in-hand with them to show them the techniques that are used to create the vases."
Giving back is very personal for both girls. Abby lost one grandmother to ALS and another to cancer, and Lexi has seen several family members battle cancer. But for them, helping others doesn't stop with Flowers for Powers. Their website features T-shirts, sweatshirts and mugs available for purchase, with all proceeds benefiting either the operations of the business or other charitable organizations. Most recently, donations went toward their Flowers for Powers team in the ALS walk Oct. 5.
Lisa said that she has been inspired by the girls' commitment to helping others.
"I think it's wonderful," she said. "To see the expressions and what they bring to other people, there's no words for it — it's brought me to tears many times — and that [Abby] does this with the thought of my mother and my mother-in-law in the back of her mind, and the comfort that they have doing it is incredible to me."
Though Lexi admitted they may encounter more time constraints when they get older, she said she has high hopes for the organization's future.
"I think as we get older it's going to grow more because then we'll be able to drive ourselves, but the down part is we might not be able to do it as much because of school and after-school activities, but I just want to see it grow," Lexi said. "I want it to go so far that people work for us, and that could happen, you never know."
For the girls, giving back means more than simply fulfilling volunteer hours for school. It's about making the world a better place, one flower arrangement at a time.
"There is so many people out there and I don't think too many people do this, which they don't, and I just think the world needs more better people who can make other people happy," Lexi said. "I think that we've learned that there should be more good people on this earth to help people brighten their day and me and Abby need to step up to the plate and be those people."
Reach Times Staff Reporter Elaina Clarke at email@example.com or 410-857-3316.