USC Hospitals receive 11,000 orchids as gift during COVID-19

BOYLE HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- More than 3,000 orchids from Santa Barbara County were given to medical staff at Keck Medical Center of USC in Boyle Heights on Thursday, a gift to those who are on the frontlines of the pandemic.

"We just got these wonderful flowers. We're so thankful on behalf of the nurses at Keck and the community," said Jonathan Morales, a registered nurse at Keck Medical Center. "I'd just like to thank you guys."

The delivery was one of five shipments sent to USC hospitals throughout the area, totaling more than 11,000 orchids.

They were donated by Westerlay Orchids which is located in Carpinteria.

"We've challenged ourselves to donate 100,000 orchids to nurses, doctors and other hospital staff on the frontlines who are fighting this pandemic," said Toine Overgaag, owner of Westerlay Orchids.

Westerlay Orchids is a commercial orchid grower with about 700,000 of colorful orchids that were initially grown to ship to supermarkets across the Western U.S., according to Overgaag.

The company said this is usually their peak season with Easter and Mother's Day around the corner.

"Now with the pandemic, the coronavirus pandemic, we are looking at lots of orchids with very few sales. So, our sales are about 25% to 30% of normal. And so obviously from a business standpoint, that's pretty scary," said Overgaag. "But on the other hand, we're saying to ourselves, how do we make something positive out of this?"

With the deliveries to the USC hospitals, Overgaag said this puts him at the 20,000 mark towards his "100,000 Orchid Challenge".

"On Holy Week, Passover, Holy Thursday, this is so special that we're staffed to receive these flowers - Springtime in and it's a new beginning and a glimmer of hope. As we are in the thick of this COVID-19 crisis," said Annette Sy, a chief nursing officer at Keck Medical Center. "We're very appreciative."

To reach Westerlay's goal of sending 100,000 orchids to medical staff, Overgaag said he needs help from the community by buying a box of orchids at www.boxoforchids.com.

"We're also trying to reach out and find some folks who can help us sponsor this so that we can also at least defray part of our costs and keep...you know, ensure the livelihood of our employees," Overgaag said.
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