Empty Nester Devotes Days To Cheering Up Strangers Who Could Use A Little Joy.

Patricia Gallagher hands out flowers and stuffed toys to veterans and seniors

For Patricia Gallagher, no gesture of kindness is too small to make a big difference in someone’s life.

Over a decade ago, Patricia’s kids had grown up and moved out, and she suddenly had a lot of free time on her hands. Hoping to spend as much of that time with her elderly mother as possible, she started visiting flower shops around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to spread some joy in the world around her.

Each day, Patricia and her mother collect donated bouquets of day-old flowers that would ordinarily be thrown out. She takes these still-lovely flowers to anyone she thinks might need a mood boost, particularly veteran’s homes, nursing homes, and hospitals.

Years later, Patricia has no idea how many bouquets she’s handed out through her Happy Flower Day project. She stopped counting when she hit 65,000!

In 2009, Patricia stumbled upon another way to spread kindness in her community. She got the idea to call a couple of nursing homes to see if she and her mother could come by to read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the seniors. As an afterthought, she gathered up a bunch of old stuffed animals that had belonged to her kids and were gathering dust.

Patricia passed out the stuffies to the seniors, and the mood in the room instantly lifted. The place went from dreary to joyful in seconds!

“It was just a nursing home and it was just a lot of elderly people sitting in wheelchairs just kind of waiting and waiting for what?” she recalled. “And all of a sudden, the whole room became alive with people jingling bells and holding Santa Claus [dolls] and everything and they really didn’t want to give them back because they thought we had given them a gift.”

The seniors didn’t want to give the toys back, so Patricia let them keep them. That got the wheels turning in her head again; if these seniors were overjoyed by a simple stuffed animal, why not give more toy to seniors in other facilities?

Patricia put out the word with local charities, and donations soon poured in! She collected over 11,000 toys in the first year alone.

“One mother in particular said her daughter passed away, she had all these stuffed animals,” said Patricia. “She had kept them all on her daughter’s bed for years, but when she saw my post on Craigslist, she felt it was her daughter saying, ‘Mom, it’s time to pass these along so others can enjoy them.'”

Patricia turned her stuffed animal drive into an annual event. She now takes in about 250 stuffed animals every week during the holiday season, then delivers them to homes for veterans, retired nuns, and senior living facilities. She says the toys provide more than just comfort; they also spark conversations and encourage people to open up and share with those around them.

Not a day goes by when Patricia isn’t delivering some sort of joy to others. She even works on Christmas day! Still, she insists that she’s the lucky one because it really is better to give than receive.

“I’ve always heard of the giver’s high – I didn’t know what that meant – but honestly, when you give, you really do get more back,” she said. “Every morning, whether it’s the flowers or the stuffed animals, I have a purpose.”

This has to be one of the best uses of time for an empty nester we’ve ever heard. Patricia couldn’t just sit around; she needed to give back. What a special lady!

Don’t forget to share this sweet story to inspire others.

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