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NJ florists grow kindness with ‘Petal It Forward’ initiative


John Angelone remembers the well-dressed man clearly.

He was young, walking quickly down the street with purpose, perhaps on his way back to his office. Angelone thought he would fail with this businessman, but he handed him two bouquets of flowers − one for him and one to share.

The man stopped.

“He was obviously taken aback,” said Angelone, who represents the fourth generation at Angelone’s Florist & Flower Delivery on Route 202 in Raritan Borough. “He was very attentive. Then told me that he just lost his mother. And this was a big, big thing for him, and he really appreciated it. You don’t know, as you’re walking up to someone, you have no idea what they’re going through. That was a big one for me and it was proving that what we were doing was a big benefit.”

That was in 2019 and the last time The Society of American Florists, or SAF, hosted “Petal It Forward,” a random-act-of-kindness initiative it began in 2015. Though halted in 2020 and 2021 by the pandemic, “Petal It Forward” is back this year on Oct. 19 with more than 500 businesses in 48 states and Washington, D.C., Canada, Colombia and India participating.

Angelone’s is one of the florists involved, as well as six others in New Jersey – The Flower Junction in Lumberton, A Blossom Shop Florist in Bayville, Denis Flowers & Gifts in New Milford, Garden Greenhouse and Nursery in Clermont, Petal Street Flower Company in Point Pleasant and Sunnywoods Florist in Chatham. The florists foot the costs for the bouquets with some help from wholesalers.

The premise is simple – florists give away two bouquets to a passerby with a message to keep one and share the other with a friend, family member, colleague or even a stranger. This is to spread joy and help promote the positive power or flowers, said Angelone, whose business has been participating since 2017.

The effort illustrates research from the University of North Florida that shows living with flowers reduces stress. “Petal It Forward” came about after SAF looked at statistics that showed while 80% of people reported receiving flowers makes them happy, even more − 88% − said giving flowers makes them happy.

Angelone’s will be giving away bouquets at the shop from noon to 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

See:Unexpected gifts bring strangers joy

“Over the many years of being in business, we have seen the power that flowers have to express emotion. You can easily show someone what it’s like to receive flowers − we see it all time, anytime we deliver flowers − but it’s very, very rare that you can demonstrate to someone the positivity and the gratification you can get from giving someone flowers,” Angelone said. “Usually, the only people that do that for others are coming in to buy flowers, and they’re coming in for a reason, whether it be sympathy, love, a birthday or the best reason − just because. What we are doing here is proving the science, showing both sides, what it’s like to receive flowers and what it’s like to give flowers and in today’s times, it can be just what people need.”

Angelone expects his shop will give out upwards of 200 mixed-floral bouquets that day. SAF chose to do a Wednesday because it can help with the “mid-week slump.”

“It’s really something about getting out there and reminding people that we’re all in this together kind of thing,” he said. “And everyone knows that after the pandemic, tensions have risen, for a variety of reasons. So, there’s no better time to do something like this than now. There’s nothing politically motivated, nothing business motivated. We have been part of this community for 75 years − our roots are here, and our family is from here. Our business has been here the whole time. If we’re going to give back to anyone, it’s going to be the people here and in the surrounding areas because they’re the ones that have been with us the entire time. This is a pick-me-up and a thank you.”

Founded 75 years ago as a greenhouse by John Angelone’s grandfather and great-grandfather, Angelone’s Florist & Flower Delivery was established where it stands today by James and Lena Angelone and remains the family business.

Angelone’s on Wednesday also will partner with the newly opened Ambee Coffee Co. and is planning day-of fundraising drives for both the Raritan Food Bank and Raritan Pregnancy Aid Center.

For more information on “Petal It Forward,” go to

email: [email protected]

Cheryl Makin is an award-winning features and education reporter for, part of the USA Today Network. Contact: [email protected] or @CherylMakin. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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