This Flower Farm Delivers Free Flowers to Spread Cheer—and Fight Pollution

Updated: Sep. 19, 2023

This nonprofit is spreading smiles and saving the earth, one bouquet at a time

What Cheer was founded by two gardeners who often gave away flowers from their own gardens and wanted the idea to grow.Courtesy Erin Achenbach
What Cheer was founded by two gardeners who often gave away flowers from their own gardens and wanted the idea to grow.

It’s been nearly seven years since a group of volunteers broke ground at What Cheer Flower Farm in Providence, Rhode Island, with a simple goal: get flowers into the hands of anyone in need of a pick-me-up. Best of all, each one of the tens of thousands of bouquets that What Cheer grows and delivers are completely free of charge.

“We want to blanket the state with flowers and create happiness and joy,” says Erin Achenbach, What Cheer’s farmer and head florist.

What Cheer regularly delivers blooming joy to people at local hospitals, food banks, hospices, senior centers, recovery centers and more—including AIDS Care Ocean State, which provides support to those affected by HIV.

“Seeing the smiles on people’s faces who weren’t expecting it—who just came in to have a meeting with their case manager or take advantage of one of our programs—to just see this glow come off their faces is great,” says Stephen Hogan Jr. from AIDS Care Ocean State.

Nicest Places In America 2023 Providence Rhode Island 2 Erinachenbach01 02 03 Np23Courtesy Erin Achenbach (3)

Located in Providence’s ­industrial Olneyville neighborhood, What Cheer’s flower beds lie on2.7 acres that once housed a crumbling knife factory. And it’s safe to say that the What Cheer crew is deserving of some flowers of their own: In May, the nonprofit was awarded a record-high $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for its continued revitalization of a brownfield site (land once abandoned because of industrial pollution).

“Not only do we give this space back to the neighborhood by bringing life to space that’s quite literally dead,” says Achenbach, “but we’re an eco-landing spot with the ability to help local insect and bird populations, and that’ll only make people’s lives better.” What cheer, indeed!

“What’s good about a flower is that it doesn’t need anything else,” she adds. “Your only job when someone gives you flowers is to enjoy them.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest