Just like the plants and flowers she reuses, recycles and repurposes, Kathy Bondar is looking for a second chance.
A second chance at regular employment. A second chance at steady income.
But until that time comes, her modest home business and the incredible volunteer opportunities it has provided her will have to do.
Bondar started in 2010, three years after being suddenly laid off from her merchandiser job for a big-box retailer. And though she continues to look for steady employment, her home business has consumed her life, and her home.
Plants, flowers and vases are found in every room of Kathy and Paul Bondar’s home in the 3700 block of South 34th Street. A large garden takes up most of the back yard and dozens of tomato plants line the Bondars’ driveway.
Bondar occasionally provides flower arrangements for weddings, baby showers and other events out of her home. She purchases flowers from wholesalers, and then makes and delivers the arrangements. Extra flowers are dried and saved, never discarded. She also sells plants, or rents them out to people such as accountants and tax preparers, businesses with particularly busy times of the year.
And though Bondar began her business in the hopes it would become a profitable venture, it has transformed into a chance for her to leave an impression on several area assisted living centers.
Bondar collects unwanted flowers and plants from wedding vendors and even funeral directors, who plan to discard the items upon conclusion of the event. She takes them home, where they are sorted and transformed into beautiful arrangements, which sometimes include dried flowers from Bondar’s personal collection or daisies from her front yard. She and her dog Sydney then deliver the arrangements to area hospices and assisted living centers in Greenfield and Milwaukee, where she also visits with patients.
“I’m not making any money on that, but I’m giving back to the community,” Bondar said. “When I get these flowers, I’m giving them a second chance for someone else.”
Keri Gerlach, marketing director at , said she happily accepts Bondar’s flower donations.
“So many of the men and women who are residents long-term have fond memories of their gardens or farming and enjoy reminiscing about their prized roses or what if feels like to get their hands in the soil,” Gerlach said. “Kathy provides a great service to the community through her thoughtful donation of fresh flowers. The bouquets are always so beautifully put together and the residents’ eyes light up when they see me coming with a vase of Kathy’s treasures.
“I’ve always said that my own 'retirement job' is going to be a flower delivery person because who doesn’t love to receive flowers? Kathy is lucky enough to do that every day and everyone here at Clement Manor is grateful.”
Bondar said she’s not losing any money on her business, but she’s not making much, if any, either. She continues to apply for jobs and look for more permanent, steady employment.
But the memories and moments her home business have provided her over the years may be worth more than any paycheck the longtime Greenfield resident ever cashes.
“If I have flowers on my kitchen table I know need to be bundled and taken to a nursing home, hospice or assisted living center, it gives me a reason to get up in the morning,” Bondar said.