Floral Fridays help hope blossom on campus

Brendon Thaler holds a box of flowers alongside Katelyn Helms before a Floral Friday event on Tech Green. // Photo by Taylor Gray Student Publications

On Fridays at noon, the student organization Georgia Tech Night of Worship (GTNOW) seeks to spread kindness and positivity on campus by surprising Tech students with free flowers in front of the Einstein statue at Tech Green.

“Georgia Tech is a hard school, but it doesn’t have to be a sad school,” said Brendon Thaler, third-year IE and founder and current president of GTNOW, when describing his motivation to first organize the weekly Floral Friday events last fall.  Sallie Kate Worley, first-year LMC, joined GTNOW after learning about the organization while receiving a flower on a Friday.

“It was the end of a painfully difficult week last semester, and having someone look me in the eye, smile and offer me such a beautiful gift lifted my spirits and let me know that someone on campus really cared about me,” Worley said. “Something as simple as a single flower is refreshing in the stress that often accompanies the Tech student life.”

Now Worley enjoys handing out flowers to other students every Friday. 

“We want to share visual reminders of love on campus and distribute the little gifts of beauty,” Worley said. GTNOW was originally created in the fall of 2019 to organize semesterly worship nights to bring together Tech’s many Christian campus ministries.

“I think it’s great … that there are so many different, unique ways that people can find their faith,” Thaler said. “But I also recognize the importance of all the Christian organizations coming together once a semester [because] it provides a lot of comfort.”

However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced GTNOW to be flexible in its mission and plans.  

“Our first night of worship … was planned for March 24 [2020],” Thaler said, explaining how this date unfortunately coincided with the very start of the pandemic.

Because the initial night of worship event had to be canceled, the majority of GTNOW’s original members left, and Thaler had to expand the initially narrow goals of GTNOW.

“We had to pivot if we wanted to stay relevant on campus,” Thaler said. “We did email newsletters [because it is] the easiest COVID-safe thing.”

GTNOW also re-scheduled their first night of worship event to be in 2021 at Bobby Dodd Stadium as it was the only place that would allow for six feet of social distancing.

“We had over 200 people in attendance and over 600 online,” Thaler said. 

“It was kind of crazy because, before COVID, we were always joking about how once we get big in 20 years or whenever, we’ll be [hosting in] the Stadium. And when COVID was around, we had no choice but to do it in Bobby Dodd Stadium.”

The idea to hand out flowers was additionally born out of the need for pandemic precautions.

Thaler explained how the members of GTNOW asked themselves, “What is something safe that we can do?” and ultimately decided that “We can be outdoors, wearing masks, giving out flowers to people.”

So far, GTNOW’s Floral Fridays have had great success as students of all backgrounds can enjoy the random act of kindness.  

“We’re out [of flowers] in like 30 minutes,” Thaler said. “Especially this semester now that more people are going into classes.”

Worley and Thaler strongly encourage students looking for faith connections on campus to become a member of GTNOW. 

“I have found outstanding friends through GTNOW. It was the final piece to solidifying Georgia Tech as my home away from home,” Worley said. “It has provided me with a church family, fabulous mentors and a place to worship on campus, and I could not have found a more loving, fulfilling organization to be a part of.”

Students who are interested in joining GTNOW can reach out through their Instagram page @gt.now