In early March, two weeks after Russia’s assault on Ukraine, Steven Dyme watched a clip on NPR’s Twitter feed about a florist in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, who had just filled his shop with spring flowers. cool when the war broke out.

“When we bought the flower bulbs, no one thought war would come,” Anzhela Kolesnik told the NPR reporter. “We knew there was fighting in Donbass, but we were still working. We have always worked, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. »

As the bulbs bloomed, Kolesnik was surrounded by shelling and explosions.

“It was a shame to throw them away,” she said in the clip.

So she kept her shop open – a small slice of beauty and hope amid unspeakable violence.

Dyme also sells flowers. He and a few buddies started Flowers for Dreams a decade ago as a college project, and it’s grown into a multi-state operation. Dyme and his colleagues choose a different charity each month to receive 25% of their profits. In 2021, they launched a foundation to support causes for justice, refugees, mental health and more.

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“It’s kind of Flowers for Dreams’ way of paying attention to what’s going on in the community and then getting inspired to find ways to help,” Dyme told me on Sunday.

I first met Dyme in May 2018, when he selected MASK (Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings), a Chicago group working to stop gun violence, as this month’s charity. the. Flowers for Dreams also delivered bouquets with handwritten notes to grieving moms for Mother’s Day.

I have followed his story over the years and met him at community events. In May 2020, three months into the pandemic, he organized the delivery of hundreds of bouquets to hospital workers – health technicians, nurses, janitors, doctors, etc. — who worked on Mother’s Day.

His heart, to me, embodies the best of us.

When he saw that NPR clip, he knew he wanted to help.

“A couple of customers and a couple of our employees stepped in and said, ‘I can help you find that person,'” Dyme said.

They contacted the Ukrainian Society of Florists to no avail. One of the Flowers for Dreams software developers used Google Maps to try to find his address based on the short video clip. This led them to four florists in Mykolaiv. They directly messaged each of them on Instagram.

“A guy named Sergey from a nearby florist said, ‘It’s not me, but I know her. I’m going to find her and see if she’s there,” Dyme said.

She was. The next morning Sergey sent a video of Kolesnik standing outside his shop surrounded by beautiful bouquets for sale. (You can watch it on the Flowers for Dreams Twitter or Instagram feeds.)

She and the Flowers for Dreams staff exchanged notes on Instagram. They learned that she opened her shop every morning and then retired to a bomb shelter at sunset with her husband and baby.

“We told her we were going to contribute a small amount of money so she could close her shop,” Dyme said. “She had 15,000 rods and we wanted to buy them so she could get to safety. That was the original goal. »

She refused the offer.

“I don’t need your money,” she wrote. “You can financially help our soldiers who are at the checkpoints. Our soldiers lack warm clothing, personal hygiene products, cigarettes and even food. I’ll buy everything, take it to them, and make sure to send you a report.

“We called it unrestricted,” he said. “If she can close her store and get to safety, we want her to. But the idea is to help her as she wishes. It’s similar to how we all donate, without restriction. People know how to do their job better than us. »

As of this writing, Dyme said the money is still awaiting transfer. He texts Kolesnik daily to check on progress.

I messaged Kolesnik on Instagram.

“Steven is a very nice person,” she replied. “He looked for me a long time and found me.”

She wrote that she is surrounded by explosions.

“Everyone needs peace over their head,” she wrote.

The $2,000 is important. I hope it happens and I hope it can be used in a meaningful way.

But that’s not the whole point either.

Dyme and his colleagues did what many of us do – heard a news report and wished he could help.

And then they did the hardest part – turning the wish into action.

“Our primary mission is to help another florist, another human being,” Dyme said. “But yeah, I hope it can inspire and ignite and help people find their own way to help.”

And that’s the whole point. Always. But especially at this time, when we must line up loud and clear with humanity.

Heidi Stevens is a columnist at the Tribune News Service. You can reach her at [email protected], find her on Twitter @heidistevens13 or join her Facebook group Heidi Stevens’ Balancing Act.

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