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Neighboring florists step in to help provide flowers for Uvalde funerals

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Funeral services for the 19 students and two teachers killed in Uvalde, Texas, last week start today. NPR's Karen Zamora reports on the preparations underway.

KAREN ZAMORA, BYLINE: It's quiet outside The Flower Patch, except for the hum of air conditioning units cooling the building. There are signs on the front entrance and the side door that say no media allowed because a flood of journalists has made it difficult for the florists to do their job. They are working around the clock to create beautiful wreaths and arrangements made of colorful peonies, hydrangeas and lilies.

KELLY BAKER: Oh, goodness. Our usual operations are (laughter) - we usually have, like, three to four people max, so we've probably got about 12 people in there right now designing behind the scenes that y'all don't see.

ZAMORA: After hesitating a moment, owner Kelly Baker takes us inside the two-story building.

BAKER: We'll just walk through real fast...

ZAMORA: To keep up with the demand, Baker says flower designers from all over have come to help.

LESLIE GARZA: Oh, hi. I'm sorry. I was looking at the names, and I didn't even see you.

ZAMORA: The back room is crammed but organized. There are walls of ribbons, greenery laid out on workstations. And in one of those stations, florist Leslie Garza of San Antonio is adding the finishing touches on a pink-and-white standing spray arrangement.

GARZA: If I don't talk, it takes me about 25 minutes. If I'm talking, it could take me a longer time.

ZAMORA: Veronica Berger is the owner of Ahr's Flower Shop in Lacoste, Texas. She drove an hour to help.

VERONICA BERGER: And florists are the only ones who know how to get through this. Nobody understands the dedication it takes to be a florist.

BAKER: And it's hard work.

BERGER: I mean, it is very hard work, but it's very...

BAKER: Fulfilling...

BERGER: It is very fulfilling.

BAKER: ...That we get to do something for these families.

BERGER: That we knew exactly what to do when this came. When this tragedy happened, we knew exactly what we needed to be doing.

ZAMORA: Like many people here, owner Kelly Baker knew some of the victims. A high school classmate came in the other day placing an order of flowers for her child's funeral.

BAKER: Their baby's favorite was sunflowers. As we start making these arrangements, we're just going to make sure and save sunflowers for this baby so that, you know, her family gets just a tiny bit of what she wanted or what she would have wanted for her service.

ZAMORA: Services begin tonight with the rosary and visitation for 10-year-olds Amerie Jo Garza and Maite Yuleana Rodriguez. And in the next few weeks, the community will put 17 other students and their two teachers to rest. Karen Zamora, NPR News, Uvalde, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.