A North Carolina florist has dedicated herself to offering kindness to widows on Valentine’s day.
The project began when Ashely Manning, owner of Pretty Things by A.E. Manning, decided to do something nice for her son’s teacher, Kathy Evans. Kathy had lost her husband, Bob Gore, to cancer in 2015 when she was 53.
On Valentine’s day 2021, Manning surprised Evans with a bouquet. Evans was incredibly touched by the gesture on what is “the hardest holiday” for her. “My husband died on March 3, and I didn’t think I was going to get a Valentine that year because he was so sick, but he ended up giving me a beautiful card and pendant,” she explains.
Seeing Evans’ reaction to the gift, “It just sparked the idea to reach out to more widows”, says Manning.
Manning posted on Instagram asking for names of other widows in the Charlotte area. The concept was met with overwhelming support. Commenters shared names of widows and some even offered to volunteer.
“I think goodness and kindness inspires more goodness and kindness,” Manning says, “and that’s a really good thing.”
This year 300 women in the area have been nominated. With a team of volunteers and support from local businesses Manning puts together the gifts for each of the women. “Accent Décor donated all 350 vases that we’re going to use,” Manning said. The wine store in South Charlotte that is locally owned donated 175 bottles of wine.”
“I took my three oldest kids to deliver a bouquet to our elderly neighbor down the street last year,” she says. “We really didn’t interact with her much, but we knew she was a widow. When she opened the door and saw the flowers, she said, ‘I think I’m gonna cry.'”
“As we were walking away, my first-grader Mia said, ‘Mom, is this why you do stuff like this? Because of how you feel good?'” says Manning. “She was really happy, and now I feel really good. My daughter realized that day the real gift is the actual joy you get from each other.”