400 North Carolina widows receive surprise flower delivery on Valentine’s Day

CHARLOTTE, NC — Celebrating Valentine’s Day after the loss of a partner or spouse is undeniably difficult, which is why a woman from North Carolina stepped forward.

Ashley Manning, a mother of four in Charlotte, and a team of volunteers delivered flowers and gift bags to 400 widows across the city this Valentine’s Day.

It’s an effort that Manning, a pharmaceutical sales rep turned stay-at-home mom, began last year, shortly after turning her flower-arranging hobby into a business in late 2020.

“When I started Pretty Things by A. E. ManningI started thinking about Valentine’s Day,” Manning said, noting that for many years she had made Valentine’s Day bouquets for her children’s teachers and family friends going through difficult times. “I thought, now I have a platform to maybe get more people involved.”

Last year, Manning shared on Instagram his idea of ​​giving flowers to women who would not receive them on Valentine’s Day from their late partner or spouse.

Within hours of her post, according to Manning, she had received hundreds of dollars in donations and the names of dozens of women who had been nominated by others.

Thanks to Manning’s efforts, on Valentine’s Day last year, 121 women and two men opened their doors to surprise floral arrangements and a gift bag with a note that included the lyrics, “There’s no never had a moment when you were forgotten”, from the song “Sauvetage” by Lauren Daigle.

One of those women was Jordan Meggs, who was marking her first Valentine’s Day without her husband, Daniel, who died of colon cancer aged 29 on February 21, 2020, when Meggs was 37 weeks pregnant with their first child. .

“I didn’t expect it, and I was shocked and so surprised by such a sweet thing,” Meggs said of the flowers and gift bag. “I used to never think about what widows do on Valentine’s Day, but it’s just Ashley thinking about other people all the time. It’s just who she is.”

For this year’s effort, Manning raised more than $22,000 and supervised 300 volunteers who assembled more than 13,000 flower stems into floral arrangements for 400 widows.

In addition to the flowers, the women also received a gift bag with wine, gifts and gift cards from local businesses that donated their belongings, according to Manning.

“It just snowballed, but it’s good to see a good thing snowball,” said Manning, who oversaw the effort this year while recovering from a back injury. debilitating eye which left her with loss of vision in one eye. “They say misery loves company, but I think happiness loves company too.”

Among the volunteers who came to Manning’s home to assemble the flowers and gift baskets this year were several women, including Meggs, who received flowers last year.

And this year, one of the arrangements and gift bags went to Meggs’ mother-in-law, whose husband died suddenly last year.

“She’ll be totally shocked, and I’m sure it will make her happy and smile,” Meggs said. “Like my husband, my mother-in-law loves Valentine’s Day. She instilled that in my husband, and that’s why he’s made it so special to me over the years.”

Manning said she is turning the project, which she calls the Valentine’s Day Widow Project, into a nonprofit so it can continue to grow and reach more women.

She said she received countless messages of thanks from the women who received flowers, and was thrilled to see her family and friends begin similar efforts on any scale, such as his sister who gave flowers for Valentine’s Day to widows in her gymnasium.

“The most important thing I’ve learned through all of this outreach is that when you feel that pinch on your heart for anything, because this world is full of sad and hard things and there are people who suffer every day, when you feel that boost, actually listen to it,” Manning said. “Whether it’s widows or widowers or military spouses or whatever it is that touches your heart. heart, you just have to listen to it and act on it, and the reward is much greater.”

“The joy that giving gives to your heart is just amazing,” she said.

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Terisa K. Carn