Florist's new charity to deliver smiles

Interns at 1-800-Flowers assemble arrangements during training at Interns at 1-800-Flowers assemble arrangements during training at the company's Carle Place headquarters. From left, Alan Croitoru, of Miami; Robert Liberto, of Bellmore; Sarah Melley, of Merrick, and Kaitlyn Cardone, of Long Beach. (July 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

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The power of a smile is no small thing, according to Chris McCann, president of 1-800- Flowers.com.

The Carle Place-based florist and gift retailer has staked its culture on "delivering smiles" and now has extended that mission to its new charitable foundation, called Imagine the Smiles. Through Facebook or the company's network of florists, anyone can nominate an unrecognized hero or someone going through hardship to receive a surprise bouquet or gourmet gift basket.

The program is "a way to recognize, honor and celebrate the people in our communities," McCann said last week, as well as a way for the company's employees, who serve rotations on the foundation's committee, to connect to the company's mission.

"So far I think it has a tremendous internal benefit," he said.

A program like Imagine the Smiles puts into action an organization's shared values, said Janet Lenaghan, associate professor of management of Hofstra University's Zarb School of Business, and makes employees more committed to the organization by showing it values their input.

"You allow employees to gain meaningfulness at work, tap into their need to transcend themselves, and they perform at a higher level," Lenaghan said.

The concept behind Imagine the Smiles has been germinating in the company for some time. Several years ago a group of employees pitched in to fill with flowers the hospital room of a once-blind patient recovering from corrective eye surgery, McCann recalled.

The company began with a "soft launch" of its Imagine the Smiles foundation about four weeks ago, delivering surprise floral and fruit bouquets to recipients including a blogger who started a foundation in memory of her daughter.

The program will formally debut Wednesday at the Island Harvest mobile pantry in Freeport, where those coming for food also will get a bouquet.

Last week a group of company interns from different departments put together bouquets under the guidance of Julie Mulligan, head of product development and McCann's sister. The bouquets were delivered Thursday to patients at the West Nassau Dialysis Center in Valley Stream."I see how people are so appreciative strangers are thinking of them," said Megan Molloy, 19, a company intern and college student from East Williston, "and it sticks with me personally."

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