“Showing love and compassion to our neighbors can change someone’s life.”

For many people, Valentine’s Day is a day for love. But for others, it can be a difficult and painful time, triggering feelings of loneliness, sadness, and disappointment.

This is especially true for those who have recently lost a loved one.

In an effort to ease the pain of the day, one special mom of four decided to spread some love…and flowers…to those who are hurting.

She never imagined what it would bloom into.

Who is the Woman Behind the Valentine’s Day Widow Outreach Project?

In 2020, Ashley Manning, of Charlotte, North Carolina, decided to leave her job as a pharmaceutical sales representative and become a stay-at-home mom to her four kids.

At the same time, she also launched a small floral business, “Pretty Things by A.E. Manning.”

“I started working with flowers in COVID as a little break from the kids,” Ashley Manning told PEOPLE. “I thought that if I made enough money to pay for a sitter while I worked, it would be worth it.”

She made more than just babysitting money. Her business flourished.

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That same year, Ashley decided to gift her son’s preschool teacher with a special Valentine’s Day bouquet. Ashley knew that she had lost her husband, Bob Gore, to cancer in 2015, and wanted to do something special for her.

“I remembered at the beginning of the year when my son was 4, she’d told me she lost her husband,” Manning recalls. “I could see in her eyes she was so sad.”

The kind gesture meant the world to Kathy.

“When you’re 53 and you’ve been with someone for 33 years, your future goes black,” Kathy said. “We had plans to travel, take dance lessons, retire… he was my rock. It was hard being that young and losing him, so to receive flowers on Valentine’s day was so special.”

Kathy wrote Ashley a note letting her know how much the flowers meant to her. The seed for the Valentine’s Day Widow Outreach Project was planted.

The Widow Outreach Project Blossomed

Ashley took to her Instagram page asking people to nominate widows to receive a free bouquet on Valentine’s Day. The idea took off.

Her initial goal was to deliver 25 arrangements to widows, but within hours of her post, Ashley knew it was going to be bigger than she bargained for. She received hundreds of dollars in donations and the names of dozens of women and a couple of men.

Twenty-five turned into nearly 125. Knowing she wouldn’t be able to pull it off on her own, she enlisted the help of her community. With a team of volunteers and several local businesses stepping up with donations of wine and jewelry, 121 widows opened their doors on Valentine’s Day to a sweet surprise.

In addition to flowers and a gift bag, each recipient also received a note that included the lyrics, “There’s never been a moment you were forgotten,” from the song “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle as per ABC News.

Since 2021, the project has blossomed from 121 widows receiving gifts to 400 in 2022. But Ashley knew she wanted to dream bigger. She had high hopes for 2023 until the devastating loss of vision in her eye threatened to derail her plans.

After vulnerably sharing her struggle on social media, Ashley received an outpouring of support. The love refueled her passion for the outreach project, “it’s now or never,” she said.

Ashley turned her initiative into a non-profit organization. And this year? Over 1000 volunteers came together to make her dream a reality. With $50,000 in donations, 800 unsuspecting widows will be receiving flowers and gift bags today.

“Watch Love Grow” Ashley is Encouraging Others to Give Back to Their Community

Ashley is hoping that her project will inspire others to do the same. She shared on her Instagram, “Hundreds of people in our community come together to show love to those who are hurting. Showing love and compassion to our neighbors can change someone’s life.”

She continued, “Thinking about others first, giving your time or your treasure or your talent, can make an impact far greater than you can see. I hope this project inspires you to listen to that little voice when it calls.”

She also provided a video tutorial with step-by-step instructions on how to make your own flower arrangement to gift to someone who is hurting.

The littlest things we do sometimes mean so much. Knowing that we are not alone is one of the greatest gifts that someone can give another person.

“I think goodness and kindness inspire more goodness and kindness,” Manning says, “and that’s a really good thing.” It certainly is.