It’s Valentine’s Day, and you might be looking forward to getting flowers or a date tonight with your special someone at an exclusive restaurant you booked weeks in advance.
A group of women from Philadelphia suburbs celebrated the occasion in a different way over the weekend — by expressing their appreciation for complete strangers.
Patricia Gallagher and her crew of 10 volunteers came bearing loads of gifts and goodies to Open Arms of Nicetown II over the weekend, a place in Northeast Philadelphia that provides transitional housing for homeless veterans.
The volunteers kicked off the festivities with short speeches honoring the men for their service and handed out homemade blankets that they brought for each of the home’s nearly 40 residents.
“They brought clothing, they brought food, and they brought love — that’s the most important thing that they brought,” said Dwayne Lowery, one of the two dozen vets gathered in the cafeteria to partake in the celebration.
Gallagher draped the crocheted symbols of warmth and love around some of the men, adding some color to the beige-walled room.
“We need something to lift our spirits, because a lot of us suffer from depression,” said Lowery, 55, a former missile and radar operator who served in the Army from 1980 to 1985.
Lornix Jordan, the executive director of the facility, said that other mental health issues like PTSD are also common among the residents. The staff coordinates intensive outpatient treatment for those who need it.
“They’re here to stay 8 months to a year,” said Jordan, while they help the men get back on their feet.
Don Hoffman said the party built up his spirits. “I really needed it — I really did,” said Hoffman. “I think it’s wonderful.”
The act of kindness was not out of character for Gallagher, who has become known for collecting donated flowers and delivering them to Philadelphia nursing homes.
“I just like to help,” said Gallagher. “I’m not a social worker, I’m not a social activist. I’m just a woman, an empty nester who accidentally fell upon this place and was glad they said we could come.”