Jewish Women International, which works to protect the rights of women and girls, will use Mother’s Day as an opportunity to provide gifts and messages of hope to women in battered women’s shelters. In doing so, the group hopes to increase awareness of domestic violence.
For its Mother’s Day Flower Project, now in its 16th year, JWI will send flowers to women in shelters around the country. Each year, 175 to 225 shelters are included.
“On any given day, there are 35,000 to 40,000 women and children living in battered women’s shelters,” said Lori Weinstein, executive director of JWI. “A lot of these women — they’ve never received flowers given in a loving way, given as a means of celebrating motherhood.”
With a donation, anyone who would like to participate can send a bouquet of flowers and message to a woman of their choosing. If they do not have a specific recipient in mind, the donor can designate a specific shelter or a region of the country where the flowers will be delivered. Donors can also give a gift in the name of someone they love, said Weinstein.
According to JWI, the project “has reached an estimated 100,000 women and children” in its 16 years. Each year, an average of 6,500 recipients are added to that number.
“The letters we get back from the women, from the shelter directors, they remind you that sometimes gestures like this are really so much larger than they seem,” Weinstein said.
Some of last year’s letters are quoted on the JWI website. “The flowers bring color into our home,” said a message from the Safe Embrace shelter in Sparks, Nev. “They make the women feel so special and appreciated. For some women, they have never received flowers so this is very special to them.”
“It is amazing what something as simple as a flower can do to the expression on a woman’s face,” wrote Kathleen Higgins, executive director of Chicago’s Rainbow House.
In addition to flowers, the women receive gifts from corporate partners of the project. The project has 60 to 70 partners, Weinstein said. An organization that generates $1,000 or more in donations to the projects receives $5 per card as a donation to the charity that organization supports.
In addition to personalized messages, senders can provide “messages of hope” to be printed on posters that are delivered to the shelters, according to JWI.
JWI has “created a razor-sharp focus on ending domestic violence,” Weinstein said. While the Mother’s Day Flower Project’s primary goal is to provide support and help to women in shelters, it also aims to raise public awareness of domestic violence.
Weinstein said that the women in shelters “feel abandoned” on Mother’s Day and that JWI started this project to combat that feeling.
“It is such a difficult time for the ladies to be in a shelter and especially during Mother’s Day,” read a letter from Pam Gillenwater, of the Resolve Family Abuse program in Charleston, W.Va. “All too often women make sacrifices for their children: to stay or to leave. We always inform the ladies where the flowers come from and the enormous amount of gratitude is overwhelming. For them to know there are others who recognize the challenges they face and to lift them up in spirit, we are thankful.”
To learn more about the Mother’s Day Flower Project or to donate, visit JWI.org/fp.