Whether you love or loathe Valentine’s Day, you will love the gesture that one Missouri man makes every year for the world’s most romantic holiday.
The gesture involves roses, and a lot of them. But instead of just surprising his wife with a bouquet and a grocery store box of chocolate, Jimmy Chouteau treats a few other special ladies with the roses — all the widows in their small town of Kansas City.
Thanks to Jimmy, for widows like Betty Bradley (whose husband, Clayton, died of a heart attack 13 years ago) Valentine’s Day is no longer a sad reminder of a missing spouse. Instead, Betty looks forward to being surprised with a red rose and a homemade card, crafted by Jimmy’s four kids and their homeschool co-op.
“It made the biggest difference in my life to know that somebody cared,” Betty told People. “Jimmy and his entire family have brought so much joy. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
The roses come courtesy of Jimmy’s non-profit organization, Widow Wednesday, which was launched when Jimmy saw a need to help some of the widows in their town with tasks and household projects that their husbands could no longer do for them. And as for the name? Well, Wednesdays simply fit his schedule. Sometimes, you just need to keep things practical, people.
What started with one man trying to help out a few women in his neighborhood has blossomed into a non-profit organization that now boasts over 200 volunteers. They do everything from yard work to simply providing much-needed hugs. Jimmy, 37, and his wife, Cynthia, 34, oversee the organization, which will deliver 200 red roses this Valentine’s Day, along with a lot of love. As the Chouteaus explain on their website:
“Our goal is to connect and build relationships with the widows in our community, sharing God’s love and care for them in visible, practical ways. Sometimes that looks like helping widows and widowers with small tasks they may no longer be able to manage or just spending some quality time with them.”
The efforts of the organization are family wide, with even the littlest Chouteau, 1-month-old Evelyn, getting out and about in the community. And 9-year-old big brother, Ethan, is apparently quite the ladies’ man. “I like getting dressed up on Valentine’s Day to go out and give the ladies’ roses,” he explained.
In addition to their display of love on Valentine’s Day, Widow Wednesday spearheads several other community events, including raking leaves in the fall, Christmas caroling, and a National Widow’s Day banquet every year. The banquet features widows and widowers getting down on the dance floor and even offers lessons from a local dance instructor, so old and young alike can brush up on their moves.
And while Widow Wednesday sounds like a sweet and charming organization that comforts the elderly, it’s important to note that their efforts span to those who have lost spouses at a young age as well. Jennifer Freed, for instance, is a grief counselor who lost her husband, Bill, when he was only 36 years old. Jennifer’s son, Ben, was only 3 years old when his father died, and the Chouteau’s made all the difference to her family.
Jimmy and his wife hope that their story will inspire others to “adopt” a widow or widower this Valentine’s Day and to help out where they see a need — even if it’s something as simple as delivering a single red rose.
“It takes such little effort, but the rewards are so great,” Jimmy told People. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven away from helping someone with tears streaming down my face. There’s no place I’d rather be every Wednesday than helping them out.”
If you’d like to get involved in the efforts of Widow Wednesday or support them with a donation, you can do so on their website.More On