Curbside Flowers in Oklahoma City is the floral shop extension of the Curbside Chronicle – Oklahoma’s first and only street magazine employing and those experiencing homelessness. What started as a holiday exception has blossomed into a brick-and-mortar establishment serving the metro with flowers and job opportunities for the economically disadvantaged.
This floral-based enterprise was launched on Valentine’s Day 2016 providing arrangements for customers around the metro. Ranya Forgotson, co-founder and director of the Curbside Chronicle at the Homeless Alliance, remembers the introduction of this program as “an experiment.”
“Since the holidays were coming up, we knew we were going to need flowers. Why not have our vendors put them together and sell them to meet that need, while also creating economic and job opportunities during the holiday season,” said Forgotston. “The reception was so well received, we started growing the campaign for things like Mother’s Day and Christmas, but we were still working out of basements and churches. Thankfully, the Great Idea Challenge helped make the floral operation more permanent.”
The Oklahoma City Community Foundation launched the Great Idea Challenge in 2018, a competitive grant program seeking community projects impacting the metro area. Out of nearly 100 ideas, the OCCF chose six organizations to award $1 million to help fund their efforts. One of those was Curbside Flowers.
“We are about people understanding that homelessness is a complex issue, but it’s also a very real issue that affects our neighbors each day. These are real people with lives and personalities. They’re so much more than the problem they’re experiencing,” Forgotson said. “With our magazine and now with our floral shop, homelessness becomes less of a far-off issue and more of a familiar issue we can work toward fixing.”
Since opening on Dec. 15, 2020 at Classen Blvd. and 5th Street, the shop has provided work for those affected by homelessness; people like Sonya Shackleford, a florist at Curbside Flowers. Shackleford, 57, has worked for many Curbside campaigns over four years including multiple pop-up shops around the metro. While Curbside Flowers offers specials during the holidays, the shop features arrangements all year round.
“The people who come in and buy the flowers are extremely kind and know exactly what we’re here trying to do,” Shackleford said. “That kindness makes everything good when you work here. At the shop, you get to see and work with friends from Homeless Alliance you haven’t seen in a while. It’s nice to see everybody getting ahead.”
Curbside Flowers and the Curbside Chronicle believe that everyday people can be part of the solution for homelessness. The first step in this process is to meet and interact with those affected, says Forgotson.
“One of the incredible things about our spot is, unlike other years, people get to see the magic of us making these bouquets,” she said. “For the first time, people cannot only get flowers from our other locations, they can also pick up arrangements from where it all gets made. Simple acts like choosing where you buy flowers from or where you get your magazine may be small, though collectively, they make a large difference in the vendor’s lives.”
Click on the Curbside Flowers website to learn more about its mission and services.