Rose Drives Save Lives!


By Janet Callahan

Editor’s Note: The late and beloved Janet Callahan wrote this article for us back in 2010, but it remains even more relevant than ever and so we share it for you again. If you would like to participate in or organize a Rose Drive, please contact us at [email protected] or through our web site.

When you participate in a Rose Drive fundraiser for Massachusetts Citizens for Life, you may not think that you are doing something that will directly save lives, but that is indeed what you are doing. You may think of accepting donations for silk roses in the back of the church on Mother’s Day or some other Sunday as a fundraiser that goes into a big, black hole somewhere to feed an institutional bureaucracy, but you would be mistaken.

While it’s much easier to make the jump from donating funds to saving babies with our partners in this great work, pregnancy resource centers, it is not really as abstract as it appears when applied to MCFL.

Consider this: MCFL is the only state-wide organization dedicated solely to keeping the pro-life cause before our legislators on Beacon Hill. While the Catholic Church, for one, also lobbies for the pro-life cause, she also has many other concerns with which to deal. 

Also, unlike the Church, MCFL actually introduces pro-life legislation and lobbies to get it passed. Remember that we got into this mess through the legal process and it is the only way we can turn it around for good.

Also consider that it has been determined from looking at other states that have such a law that The Women’s Right to Know Bill, or Laura’s Law (so named for Laura Hope Smith who died unnecessarily from an abortion on Cape Cod in 2007), will save 1,170 babies per year in Massachusetts if passed into law. Now that’s worth the price of a professional lobbyist on Beacon Hill, is it not? It’s also worth the cost of printing and mailing the MCFL Magazine to get it into the hands of constituents so that they, too, can lobby their legislators and help get pro-life legislation passed (or pro-death legislation defeated).

Laura’s Law is just one concrete example of the many lobbying and educational ways that MCFL saves babies. In addition, MCFL is also an advocate for those at risk at the other end of life for whom there are no “elderly-in-crisis centers” as well as the non-elderly disabled (such as Terry Schiavo). MCFL was established by forward-thinking people in 1972, before Roe vs. Wade. We will never know this side of heaven how many lives have been saved by the men and women who have kept this organization going but, as it has always been, we cannot do it without your help.

This brings me to the need for fundraisers and the Rose Drive has to be the easiest one around. I’ve been running the Annual Mother’s Day Rose Drive at my church (Immaculate Conception, Malden/Medford) since 1987 and we’ve raised over $30,000 during those years. That’s just one church, albeit a relatively large one. Imagine what could be done if many more churches got involved!

How to get started: first, get permission from the pastor and determine a date for your Rose Drive. They can be done at any time but it’s nice to tie them into a special day. Examples would include the Sunday before January 22, the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, or any Sunday in October for Respect Life Month. (N.B. In 2018, the Mass. March for Life will take place on Father’s Day, June 17, which makes it especially perfect for a Rose Drive.)

Apparently, there is an old tradition of wearing a red carnation on Mother’s Day if your mother is still alive and a white one if she is deceased. The old-timers in my parish taught me that and they adapted the tradition to the rose and still choose the red or the white rose accordingly. Many people tell me that they bring the rose to the cemetery which means the Rose Drive is also a perfect fit for Memorial Day. 

For Father’s Day (and Memorial Day), you can explain that the rose is the symbol of the pro-life movement and that, while we normally think of giving roses to women, our fathers also defend and protect our lives and we can honor them, living or deceased, with this pro-life symbol. 

Next, determine how many roses you think you’ll need and order them from the MCFL office. The silk roses are a very good quality and are quite lovely. They come in four colors; red, pink, white and yellow and they come in boxes of 144 per color. The red and the pink are the most popular but the white and the yellow are not far behind. This year the percentage per color that went in my parish was; 31% red, 30% pink, 20% white and 19% yellow.

You’ll want to advertise the Rose Drive in the parish bulletin two weeks before the event and, if space allows, the weekend of the Drive itself. We do not charge or pay sales tax for the roses, so be sure to use language that denotes “donation” and not “sale.” It’s also extremely helpful if the pastor will allow an announcement from the pulpit. Some will, some won’t, but you’ll see the difference in the amount you take in. Be sure to send in a “thank you” bulletin announcement with the amount that was raised as a follow-up. 

As a chapter volunteer helping out at different churches, I’ve seen Rose Drives done many different ways. The most common is to use baskets. The large open-ended “fireside” type with large handles work best because you can hook the basket on your arm while keeping your hands free to pass out the roses and make change.

Thanks to an idea from one of my volunteers, I’ve been using a different approach for the past few years that works well for us. I use large, 12” diameter plastic flower pots; the kind that are used for rubber plants. The pots stay on the floor and my hands are completely free. If the lines get long, I tell people to pick their own roses and I just take their donations and make any necessary change. It really helps ease congestion.

Some other things that I’ve learned to be the most successful include not leaving any door uncovered, no matter how few people use it. We have a “quiet” door in our church and many times the volunteers will bemoan the fact that they didn’t do so well at that door. However, when all is said and done, I would say that we average about $100 per weekend at that door.

The next thing is to not ignore any Mass because it is too early or too late. We used to have a 6:30 AM Mass and I, for one, was always tempted to ignore it. However, we averaged $131 at that Mass. Since 1998 we’ve had a 7:00 AM Mass and the average take is $175. We also have a 5:00 PM “Youth” Mass on Sunday that doesn’t do so well and, after being in church since the early morning Mass, there is always a temptation to call it a day after the last morning Mass but the average take at the 5:00 is $125. Those two Masses combined only account for one quarter of our total proceeds but $300 is still $300!

The last and most important suggestion I have for a successful rose drive is to cover the doors with volunteers from the parish that everyone knows. The more well-known your volunteers, the more successful you will be. It’s very easy for people to walk right past someone they don’t know, but it’s human nature to stop and support a friendly face, especially one that knows your name!

I was told by another Rose Drive coordinator that she puts a parish family in charge of each Mass. The family either covers the doors themselves or gets their friends to help where needed. The coordinator remains available at each Mass to collect the funds and replenish the baskets for the next Mass.

In my parish we have five doors and five Masses. At three of the most well-attended Masses, I make sure there are two people at the busiest door. That means that I need a total of 23 people to assist me since I am generally the only one that attends all the Masses. The key is to use people that attend a particular Mass because those are the ones that will be best known to the people that generally attend that same Mass

Some churches use real flowers (roses or carnations) but that presents its own set of challenges. I used real carnations last year, but it was a lot more work and I ended up taking in the same amount of money. I figured out a way to do it easier but wasn’t able to test my new theory this year due to circumstances beyond my control. Perhaps next year I will use a combination of the silk rose and the real carnation or rose (depending on the cost) to try to get the maximum return. If you’re considering a Rose Drive for the first time, however, I would strongly suggest that you start with the silk roses till you get a good feel for the type of response you’ll get.

Another Rose Drive coordinator told me that, instead of asking for a $1 or $2 donation, he recently began saying, “Take a rose and make your most generous contribution.” This resulted in a major increase in donations and the beauty of it is that you will at least get the $1! 

What I’ve detailed above comes from my experience with the Rose Drive in my Catholic parish. However, it can easily be adapted for use in a non-Catholic church as well. All in all, the Rose Drive is an easy, attractive, non-confrontational way to raise funds for an organization that has defended the right-to-life from conception till natural death for nearly four decades and has saved countless lives in the process.

Photo caption: A Rose Drive conducted at St. Patrick Parish, Stoneham, by the North Suburban Chapter of MCFL.

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