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Coming up roses

CENTRAL POINT — Had Wednesday not marked the beginning of September, the line of chattering people filing out of Judy's Central Point Florist with fresh-cut roses could only have been a Valentine's or Mother's Day rush on flowers.

But the excitement was far from a holiday, or even a sale.

National "Good Neighbor Day," founded in 1994, challenges FTD flower shops to give away 10,000 roses to community members who, in turn, keep just one, then give the others away to brighten someone else's day.

As an added bonus, the event usually partners with a community organization.

On Wednesday, the event collected the equivalent of 14,000 pounds of food and cash donations to help ACCESS Inc. feed the valley's hungry.

"I was at the ATM and some lady came up and just gave me a rose," said Central Point resident Tammy Renee Haas, who was shocked to learn the flower shop was giving away dozens of roses for little more than a promise to spread goodwill.

"They're free?" she questioned Rick Samuelson Sr., who runs the shop with his wife and family, as she headed inside for a red dozen of her own to pass out.

Mayor Hank Williams manned the front door alongside Samuelson, while volunteers and floral shop staff stood behind tables nearly overflowing with roses.

Central Point senior center volunteer Eleanor Holbrook stopped by for a dozen red roses, noting, "I heard about it a few years ago on Oprah and I think it's a wonderful idea. I'm going to pass them all out."

Adam Baker, also of Central Point, heard about the giveaway on the radio and picked a dozen "pinkish-purple" buds for his wife, admitting he wasn't sure whether she'd keep them or give them away. Yellow, pale pink, hot pink, fire engine red and variegated varieties prompted most who entered to deliberate over favorite colors and prettiest varieties as the aroma of roses and sound of happy chatter drifted onto the downtown sidewalk.

Local brothers Trevor and Tanner Espinosa walked from their home near Mae Richardson Elementary School, passing a car windshield on which someone had tucked a yellow rose.

"Our dad told us to go get some and give them away so we're going to try," said 13-year-old Trevor, showing off a dozen lavender buds.

Fifteen-year-old Tanner added, "They're for our mom and to give away to people."

A few doors away, barber Connie Hukill smiled as she watched the activity surrounding the flower shop. Hukill said she watched the event when Judy's put it on in 2008.

"I usually end up with my dozen," she said, pointing to two roses in a vase on her counter, delivered by customers. "I wound up with three dozen last year. I give some of them away that I get, too. I just have fun sending my customers down to get roses."

Newcomers to town Mandy Mosley and her three kids acquired two dozen to use as a way to get acquainted with neighbors.

"We just moved here in July and we haven't met any of our neighbors yet, so this will be a good way to do that," she said.

All told, Rick Samuelson Jr. said the shop sent out the more than 800 bouquets by around noon. With promotion provided by Radio Medford and the cost of roses and manpower for the shop, Samuelson put the retail value of the event at around $10,000.

"But you can't put a price on something like this," he said, "This is our give-back."

His favorite part, he noted, has yet to come.

"The best part is the stories we get back for weeks after. It makes us excited to do it again," he said.

"My favorite story was a (letter to the editor) in the paper about a mom who got up to the counter at a grocery store and had forgot her money at home. The cashier told her, 'Don't worry about it. It's Good Neighbor Day.' "

Bella Burcham, 5, walks to her car after receiving free flowers at Judy's Flowers and Gifts as part of “Good Neighbor Day” in Central Point Wednesday. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch