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Priest uses flower power to aid schools

A parish priest whose flair for promotion has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charities has come up smelling like roses with his latest idea.

In a deal struck with a national network of 2,500 florists, the Rev. Edmund S. Nadolny, sometimes known as the "pierogi priest" for an earlier fund-raising effort, has arranged that 10 percent of the money people spend on flowers may be donated to a parochial school of their choice.

"This is a unique way of helping Catholic education," said Nadolny, pastor of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church.

Jay Curci, manager of partnerships and alliances for 1-800-FLOWERS, said the program has implications for all charities, not just Catholic schools.

"Father Ed is a cool guy. He came to us with the idea," Curci said. "Any charity interested in a similar program can call me."

Under the plan worked out between the priest and the network of florists, anyone may participate in the program by dialing 1-800-FLOWERS (356-9377), based in Westbury, N.Y., and mentioning "Catholic flowers" or code 463. (The numbers 463 spells God on the telephone keypad.) "That was Father Ed's idea, too," Curci said.

Each quarter the network reviews the earnings from flowers ordered through Code 463 and sends 10 percent to the schools designated by the callers.

The flowers don't cost callers more because the proceeds come from the florists' pockets in exchange for Nadolny's promotional efforts.

Curci said it's a win-win idea. Money goes to a worthy cause and the floral industry gets good public relations. The network's 2,500-member florists across the country cooperate in making overnight deliveries.

Nadolny said he is sending letters to superintendents of 7,000 Catholic schools in the United States explaining the program. Later he said he will write to Catholic parishes, monasteries and other Catholic charities to include them as recipients in the program.

Nadolny said he thought up the idea as a means of raising more money for his parochial school. In another promotion, still ongoing, Nadolny has raised $70,000 for the school through the sale of $1.5-million in handmade pierogis, a sort of Polish ravioli stuffed with potatoes, cheese, cabbage and/or mushrooms.

"I've been known as the Pierogi Priest. Now they will call me the Flower Priest," Nadolny said.

Nadolny has been involved with many other promotions over the years. In the early 1980s he was so appalled at the plight of the famine-stricken Ethiopians he raised $600,000 to build wells in 102 villages.

He thinks his floral scheme may be his best ever.

"People spend $14-billion a year on flowers," Nadolny said. "Catholics probably account for $3-billion of that since they make up 22 percent of the population.

"There are 450,000 Catholic funerals and 300,000 Catholic weddings (each year) in addition to Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day. Money spent on flowers is just phenomenal."