Annual rite of spring nears for residents, guests of Catholic Memorial Home

By Dave Jolivet

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Residents, staff, family and guests of the Catholic Memorial Home don’t need a groundhog to let them know when spring will arrive. They have the annual Flower Show at the Fall River skilled nursing center.

For the 13th consecutive year, the home’s solarium will soon be transformed into a spring garden filled with sites, sounds and fragrances to warm the heart and soul, even as chilly winds, ice and snow remain just a cold front away.

With a different theme each year, this year’s springfest will take people to the majestic Austrian and Swiss Alps where the beloved Rogers and Hammerstein 1965 musical motion picture, “The Sound of Music,” comes alive with live flowers and plants, large backdrops of scenes emulating the motion picture, screenings of the original movie, and music and sing-alongs sure to bring folks into the midst of the von Trapp Family, led by Maria, portrayed by Julie Andrews. There will also be the opportunity to take part in facts and trivia questions about the movie, and residents will be able to take part in adult coloring of movie scenes.

“The flower show is always an exciting time at Catholic Memorial Home,” Mary Jean Storino, director of Activities at CMH, told The Anchor. “It began 13 years ago as an enjoyment factor for the residents, staff and family members. In it we bring the outdoors indoors by transforming the solarium with live plants and flowers. So many of the residents here have planted gardens and flowers and it brings back very warm memories for them.”

Along with the wonderful entertainment element, the flower show also offers attendees the opportunity to purchase the flowers and plants and take part in raffles and auctions that help defray the cost of the event, with the leftovers going to the Activities Department to continue its highly-regarded work with the residents.

Storino, who has been with the home for 16 years, has been involved with each of the flower shows since their inception.

The idea for the annual event began at the Diocesan Health Facilities Office in Fall River, with maintenance gurus Tom Glenn and Tom Boulay.

“Tom and Tom decided to enrich the residents’ experience at the home by bringing in flowers, plants and mulch to bring springtime inside, and the idea took off from there,” Kate Holbrook, secretary to the administrator at CMH for the last six years, told The Anchor. “Soon the staff and families of residents began to donate plants and raffle items to help out.”

This year’s “Sound of Music” theme was Holbrook’s idea. Although she was born many years after the hit movie came out, it became one of her favorites, and she, Storino, Lisa Lebreux, director of Consumer and Community Relations at the home, and a host of staff volunteers are working to bring the Alps into the Fall River site.

“The solarium will soon be filled with roses, tulips, azaleas, hyacinths, house plants and much more,” added Lebreux, who is experiencing her very first CMH flower show. “We have advertised with the usual media sources,” she continued, “and we have also done some outreach to area assisted-living groups and senior centers who will probably be sending people over to enjoy the event.”

“The residents can’t wait for each year’s show,” said Storino. “We have members of the residents’ council who take an active role in volunteering to bring the show alive. They and staff members want to be there all the time. People love the social aspect, and the residents make dynamic ‘sales’ people helping to sell the flowers and plants. This is a highlight for them.”

Bringing nature indoors to many of the residents who don’t spend much time outdoors appears very therapeutic for them. It seems to resurrect instincts of planting and gardening and relating to nature.

“We try to bring every resident in the building there at some time,” said Lebreux. “In the past the residents and their families love being there,” added Storino. “All of the activities will center around the theme, and each of the residents will receive a souvenir keepsake of the show,” added Holbrook. “This year it will be a stained-glass, representing the character Maria’s time spent in an abbey studying to become a nun.”

“The Sound of Music” Flower Show is also open to the public. “The show runs from March 8 to March 18,” said Holbrook. “During the week, the hours for the public will be 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. During that time, people will be allowed to purchase flowers and plants, with staff and home volunteers on hand to assist them. On the weekend, items for sale will be available at the main desk.”

“There will be great photo opportunities with the large theme-related backdrops,” said Lebreux.

Past flower show themes have included: “The Wizard of Oz,” “Paris in the Spring,” “Alice in Wonderland,” a zen garden, “Celebrate Spring,” and a country cottage garden.

For 10 days in March, Maria and Baron von Trapp and the seven von Trapp children will bring Catholic Memorial Home residents, staff, family members and guests on a musical Alpine journey replete with springtime sites, sounds and fragrances — a far cry from the howling winds and drifting snows of a New England nor’easter.

To donate plants, raffle items or monies, or for more information on the annual flower show, contact Lisa Lebreux, Kate Holbrook, or Mary Jean Storino at 508-679-0011.  

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