BYRON (WREX) — Kathleen Hughes has walked a few different paths in her career.
She began as a teacher, pivoted to the not for profit field and is now living her dream every day.
"I've always wanted to be a floral designer. It's always been in the back of my head," Hughes said.
"Like we say, it's never too late. Never too late for you to do what you truly want to do."
Hughes made the leap into the floral design world six years ago after getting her three daughters through college.
What started as a wedding design business out her home eventually grew into a brick and mortar boutique in downtown Byron.
As the name Stems & Stuff Designs emplies, there's more than just flowers inside the doors.
Everything from clothes to jewelery and home decor can be found at the shop.
Plenty of "stuff" to sift through, which is a nod to Hughes' late father.
"He always collected very unique things. He always said 'Kathleen when you get your boutique together, I'm going to bring down my stuf,'" Hughes said.
"My dad unfortunately passed away before I was able to open my boutique. My husband said 'Kathleen you have got to put stuff in the name." That's how Stems & Stuff Designs came to be."
When it comes to her favorite part of the job, Hughes says hands down its the people.
She enjoys being able to help her customers get what they need.
In fact, her desire to help spans outside of her boutique.
For more than four years, Hughes has put together small bouquets of flowers to send to Heartland Hospice in Rockford.
She makes the drive from Byron once a month to give the flowers as birthday presents to patients.
It's an act of kindness leaders at Heartland Hospice can show enough gratitude for.
"It's been snowy, it's been rainy, she's had family things she's had to deal with, she's had weddings she's had to work at but she still shows up every month," Heartland Hospice volunteer coordinator Sheri Anspaugh said.
"She's always had a servant's heart. . . upbeat, giving, loving giving. This is just the perfect opportunity for her."
Hughes isn't one to take credit, saying she's just trying to help or 'it's just a bouquet of flowers.'
However, Anspaugh and the Heartland team are quick to tell her what she's providing is so much more than just a gift.
"People who haven't smiled in weeks. They get that smile on their face when they see those flowers and knowing that someone is thinking of them," Anspaugh said.
The patients are like kindred spirits for Hughes.
Her middle daughter was diagnosed with cancer at just 15 months old.
She survived, which makes Hughes feel a connection to those who are living in hospice just trying to get through each day.
"In a sense our family went through very similar circumstances," Hughes said
"If I can just give back a little bit, that's all I need."
Stems & Stuff Designs is located at 115 W 2nd Street in Byron.