CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The heart of the Valentine’s Day experience is often a bouquet from a loved one.
But when the flowers abruptly stop coming, it can be an emotional holiday. On Tuesday, a crowd of volunteers ensured hundreds of widows felt the love.
“That van is doing like 20 deliveries,” says florist Ashley Manning.
The Charlotte businesswoman was in the middle of a hectic but rewarding scene.
The owner of Pretty Things by AE has headed the effort to spread love as the Valentine’s Day Widow Outreach Project founder for the past few years.
Every Feb. 14, the sentimental value of flowers skyrockets for many nationwide. But the day can be painfully lonely for those who have lost a spouse or significant other.
“Well, there’s so many people impacted with this,” Manning told Queen City News.
“I think about that myself if I was a widow one day, and I open the door and think, ‘You thought of me today? Like that’s a really heartfelt sentiment,” said Manning.
“No widows forgotten”
“Let’s hope Barbara’s home,” volunteer Karen Linson says, delivering something that means more than she’ll ever know.
“The delivery is one of the best parts of the whole thing,” Manning says of the surprise visits.
We witnessed a touching exchange when Linson arrived at Barbara Arrington’s doorstep.
“So we wanted to bring you a flower arrangement so that no widows are forgotten on this special day — and that you are loved,” Linson said.
As she approached the stranger at the door, tears welled up in Arrington’s eyes.
“Yes, you may hug me,” Linson says. “I’m just here to share some love with you.”
Arrington’s husband, Tom, died of lung disease on Jan. 8.
“And I miss him!” she said to Linson. “I don’t want to cry. I’ve cried a lot.”
“I know, but this is for you,” Linson replied, holding up the bouquet she brought for Arrington.
“It’s beautiful,” Arrington said.
“She was having a hard day,” Linson explained later. “And then some bring some joy to her, and lighten her load, and then to just lift her spirits.”
Multiply that moment by hundreds.
Greenville, S.C. resident Susanna Shimp participated as a volunteer with her two kids this year.
“I’m remarried, but I still consider myself a widow,” says Shimp. “And I think receiving a bouquet unexpectedly on a day that lots of people are talking about love and all that, and you’re missing that… that pain and grief, (the bouquet) really means a lot.”
“We want other women to feel loved,” says fellow volunteer Andrea Todd, delivering bouquets for the third year. “I have a husband, and I get flowers every Valentine’s Day, and I cannot believe how lonely it would be on Valentine’s Day, especially if you don’t have another significant other,” Todd said.
Project involves 800 widows
Volunteers delivered 125 bouquets to widows nominated by friends online when the project started. The project is now in year three, and the tally is 800. The community contributed more than $35,000 to the effort. Along with flowers, the Valentine’s Day Widow Outreach Project delivered wine and other items donated by local businesses.
“Well, there’s so many people impacted by this. The widows are so dumbfounded when they open the door. ‘What?’… so confused, “says Manning.
For folks like Arrington, the Valentine’s Day memories of her husband are bittersweet.
“I was sitting there just now, thinking… I know (Tom) would’ve gotten me flowers — he never forgot,” she said.
And for widows who receive a bouquet, there’s comfort in knowing just how many people care.