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More than 800 elders receive Christmas surprise thanks to volunteers

One couple's idea to give back inspires others to join in
Posted at 7:35 PM, Dec 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-25 20:35:29-05

COLEMAN (NBC 26) — This year, nearly 20 families spent their Christmas morning bringing flowers to senior citizens across northeast Wisconsin. One couple’s determination to make a difference inspired others to give back.

"Growing up, my best friend was my grandma," Cody Barden, co-owner of Bloom House 23 in Coleman, said outside the store Monday morning.

He said his love for his late grandmother is one of the reasons why he and his husband, Zak Barden, decided to start a sponsor an elder program out of their store for the holidays in 2022.

This year, they accepted $20 donations, which would buy one local elder a floral arrangement to be delivered Christmas morning. The Bardens, matching every $20 donation with one of their own, gave out over 800 floral arrangements to people in 12 different elder care facilities this Christmas. That's more than double the number from last year.

"We couldn't have done it without our small town of Coleman coming together," Zak said.

Cody said his grandmother is just one of the people who he hopes to make proud by giving back during the holidays. Especially after a traumatic event he suffered years ago, while living in Illinois, before moving to Wisconsin.

"I was shot in a carjacking," he said tearfully. "The police went to my parents door, told them the news, my dad suffered a stroke in the squad car on the way to see me. He died, and he didn't get to see me, like, have the store, or find my perfect person. Like, he'd be very proud."

Carol Zeh is a friend of the Bardens, and one of the dozens of volunteers who spent Christmas morning dropping off the flowers and hand made cards from local elementary school students.

"It's so special," she said. "Not too many people give of their time like that."

"A lot of these people said they don't get any visitors," Cody said. "One gentleman started crying, he said that they reminded him so much of the flowers he used to give his wife every valentines day."

When asked where his appreciation of elders comes from, Cody said he once worked in elder care facilities checking pacemakers.

"If it weren't for our elders, none of us would be here."

As for next year, despite how stressful making 800 floral arrangements was, the owners of Bloom House 23 say they can’t wait for what 2024’s "sponsor an elder" program will bring.