For anyone who has lost a loved one, celebrating milestones and big holidays can be extraordinarily difficult. On Valentine’s Day, surrounded by dramatic declarations of love, that pain may be even more intense. In an effort to ease some of the hurt and bring smiles to faces, one woman in North Carolina surprised hundreds of widows with flowers on Valentine’s Day.
Ashley Manning, of Charlotte, started her flower arrangement business, Pretty Things by A.E. Manning, in 2020, but it wasn’t until 2021 that she came up with a way to honor women who had lost a partner or spouse with the Valentine’s Day Widow Outreach.
“The joy that giving gives your heart is just incredible,” she said.
Manning encouraged her followers to nominate widows in the community, and asked for donations of money and time, to help create gift bags and arrange flowers to surprise the women. She had aimed at gifting at least 50 women for Valentine’s Day 2021, but the community turned out more than she expected and she was able to surprise 121 women.
This year, the project was even more of a success, and Manning was able to surprise 400 widows around Charlotte with flowers and gift bags to help them feel the love this Valentine’s Day. According to Good Morning America, Manning raised more than $22,000 for the arrangements, which were put together by 300 volunteers. This year’s gift bags include flowers and wine as well as gifts and gift cards from local businesses who donated to the project.
“It just kind of snowballed, but it’s a neat thing to see a good thing snowball,” said Manning. “They say misery loves company, but I think happiness loves company, too.”
Since starting the Valentine’s Day Widow Outreach, Manning has received messages of thanks from women who were grateful to have that extra support and love during a difficult time. According to GMA, she hopes to expand the project and create a non-profit organization to reach even more women.
“The most important thing that I’ve learned through this whole outreach is that when you feel that tug on your heart for whatever it is, because this world is full of things that are sad and hard and there are people that are aching every day, when you feel that nudge, actually listen to it,” she said. “Whether it’s widows or widowers or if it’s military spouses, or whatever it is that tugs at your heart, you just listen to it and act on it, and the reward is far greater.”