For owner of Lenexa’s Bulk It store, a mission to spread holiday joy amid pain of personal loss

Bulk It, a health food store in Old Town Lenexa, has delivered 13 carloads of  poinsettia plants to those stuck at home during the global pandemic. 'Operation Poinsettia' was started in honor of Gale Krohn, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor three months ago. Above, Bulk It employee Terri Knorr. 

With seniors more isolated than ever this holiday season, the folks at Bulk It, a health food store in Old Town Lenexa, have delivered hundreds of poinsettia plants to those stuck at home during the global pandemic.

‘Never seen anything like this’

Since Operation Poinsettia began a few weeks ago at the store, 13444 Santa Fe Trail Drive, co-owner Nancy Baum has sold and delivered 13 carloads of plants to senior living centers and older folks living on their own. With the help of fellow employee Terri Knorr and her husband, Tom Knorr, Baum has delivered hundreds of poinsettias.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Baum said. “It’s very emotional for a lot of people, it hits home really close. We just have incredible customers.”

Above, Nancy Baum, co-owner of Bulk It, holds a poinsettia plant. She asked her picture not to be taken with her face, as she is grieving the loss of her boyfriend Gale Krohn. Krohn’s terminal illness sparked the start of Operation Poinsettia.

Tuesday marked the last day of Operation Poinsettia. Baum and the Knorrs delivered the last three carloads of poinsettias Tuesday evening as part of their new Christmas tradition.

Customers filled out a card to go with the plant, and after the store closed for the evening, Baum would team up with the Knorrs to deliver the plants. Last Friday alone, they delivered 135 plants.

Some senior facilities that have received poinsettia plants include Lakeview Village, Sunrise of Lenexa, Silvercrest at College View and Westchester Village of Lenexa.

“We lost count,” Baum said. “I just kept getting truckloads. It’s beautiful. They’re overwhelmed, and the cards are heartfelt from the customers. Most of these folks haven’t left their rooms for seven, eight months, so it just brings a little happiness.”

‘Love your life, Love every minute of it’

Gale Krohn (right) enjoyed being around his grandkids. Photo courtesy Nancy Baum.

For Baum, co-owner of the health food store, it’s been especially important for her to keep busy and find ways to bring cheer to others.

Three months ago, her boyfriend, Gale Krohn, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. So Baum began selling poinsettias, in part, to keep her mind off things.

Krohn died on Sunday at age 63.

“I was overwhelmed with the sadness from his diagnosis and illness; I can’t wallow in all this sadness, there has to be some kind of light,” she said. “I was thinking something good had to come out of this — I had to be of service — so that’s what I came up with. And everybody has just been so phenomenal. It has changed so many people’s lives. It’s been a beautiful thing.”

Above, co-owner Nancy Baum with Gale Krohn — the inspiration for Operation Poinsettia.

Bulk It had dozens of poinsettia plants displayed around the store earlier this week.

“A lady came in today and bought all of them in his honor,” Baum said on Tuesday afternoon. “It made me cry. The last three carloads are going out tonight. Isn’t that unbelievable?”

Baum and Krohn enjoyed seven happy years together. Krohn was a self-employed electrician and loved being with his grandkids. Baum called him the “mascot of Bulk It.”

“Love your life,” Baum said. “Love every minute of it.”