One Turlock business owner recently helped spread joy this holiday season through her love of flowers — and a shoutout from one of her favorite country music stars.
Keeping with a trend she first started at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Heidi Sisco of Heidi Hearts Flowers decided that this Christmas, she would give community members the chance to remind those living in skilled nursing facilities and senior living homes that they weren’t forgotten during this time of isolation. For just a $20 donation, customers could purchase a “Poinsettia Gram” to be delivered to the elderly this week.
Sisco had offered a similar opportunity earlier this year but with bouquets, and decided just over a week ago that the beloved holiday plant would make a perfect gift for seniors who have had to keep their distance from loved ones this year due to COVID. Those who purchased the Poinsettia Grams would be able to include a personalized note as well, offering some sense of cheer and hope for recipients.
For Sisco, the effort was especially meaningful since she lost both of her grandparents to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“Knowing the toll that took on (my grandparents) and all of the people it took to help get them through it and be comfortable...That aspect of it means a lot to me,” Sisco said. “Also just knowing that they're lonely. I think for myself, I can get in my own head and feel like I'm alone, but they are physically alone. They can’t socialize with the people they love; they can’t see them...I really feel for the ache in that and how hard that is, and how devastating COVID has been in skilled nursing facilities. I can’t even imagine.”
Sisco accepted orders for the Poinsettia Grams Dec. 17 through Dec. 21, and was preparing to close the ordering period on Monday night when she received the surprise of her life. She had received 26 orders for Poinsettia Grams — a great turnout, she thought — but was about to receive hundreds more.
Country recording artist Kacey Musgraves caught wind of Sisco's effort via social media and posted about the Poinsettia Grams on her own accounts, encouraging her millions of followers to support the project. While Musgraves is an ultra-successful star with six Grammy awards, six Country Music Association awards and three Academy of Country Music Awards, she also happens to be one of Sisco's favorite singers.
In fact, Sisco walked down the aisle to Musgraves’ song “Butterflies” when she married her wife earlier this year. Needless to say, she was dumbfounded when she saw Musgraves’ post.
“I started screaming. I was freaking out,” Sisco laughed. “It feels so special because I just really admire Kacey. She’s helped me become more comfortable in myself...I feel like I finally been able to walk more honestly and openly because I’ve lived in fear for so long, so finally getting to be here and say, ‘This is who I am and, this is what I do and I'm just going to try and be a good person and love people and tap into what I love.’ It felt so affirming.”
As Sisco collected herself in the aftermath of Musgrave’s post, which was also shared by “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy, the orders for Poinsettia Grams began pouring in. She made the decision to close orders when she had received 500, then she and a team of friends began the task of transporting hundreds of poinsettia plants from the flower market in San Francisco back to Turlock by way of a moving truck.
By Wednesday night, Sisco and company had delivered all 500 Poinsettia Grams to nine different facilities in Turlock and Modesto. While she was unable to see the reactions of the recipients due to social distancing protocols, she was able to read the notes customers had provided with the flowers as she attached them to each plant.
“Some of the messages were your classic ‘Happy Holidays,’ and some were really personal asking to become pen pals or just more meaningful notes. It was really sweet; I got teary-eyed reading them,” Sisco said.
The nurses on hand to receive the flowers were emotional, too, and shared with Sisco that their patients have been isolated and mostly alone since March. They visit with their families through windows, and some have barely been able to leave their rooms.
“The employees came outside to get the flowers and were just so emotional and overwhelmed,” she said. “I know that the people working there are so exhausted themselves and have given so much. It probably weighs heavily on them because they have relationships with these people.”
The experience was rewarding, Sisco added, and the shoutout from Musgraves which allowed people from all over the United States to participate was like a Christmas gift in itself. She hopes to continue to deliver different grams to facilities as the pandemic wears on, with Valentine’s Day as the holiday she’s set her sights on next.
Employees working in the facilities which received poinsettias have reached out to Sisco with gratitude, as well as people living in different states who said the grams meant a lot to them since they have family in skilled nursing facilities as well. While the Poinsettia Gram project may have taken place locally, its impact was felt nationwide.
“Knowing that their families can’t be there for them, I’m thankful to be able to give them reminders that they are loved, they are not forgotten and they are cared for.”