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A teacher whose husband is deployed overseas, an out-of-state woman whose mother recently passed away and local business owners all opened their mailboxes Valentine’s Day weekend to find a surprise package addressed to them from Quirks of Art.
The staff of the local art and handcraft gallery located in High Street decided to take a different approach to Valentine’s Day this year by focusing less on romantic love and more on the love they have for the community they serve.
Jennifer Raines, Jacquie Lounsburg and Kendra Law came up with the idea to celebrate local love after the success of their “Sparkle Friday” initiative, when they opted to spend Black Friday performing acts of generosity and cheer around the community in lieu of opening their doors for the usual shopping madness. Instead, they hosted a food drive, delivered flowers to Hospice House, provided cupcakes to local firefighters and first-responders and other random acts of kindness.
Moved by the enthusiastic community response they received and the satisfaction they felt after giving back, Raines, Lounsburg and Law decided to keep the kindness going this Valentine’s Day by sending care packages to other local businesses, regular customers going through a rough time and even strangers whose stories had moved them recently.
One such stranger was a woman who lives out of state who has been grieving the sudden death of her mother. Though the Quirks of Art staff has never met her, they had received an email from her shortly after her mother’s death when she discovered the present her mother had been planning to buy her for her upcoming birthday was a decorative glass and copper piece of art from the store.
Raines was touched by this woman’s story and decided she wanted to send the woman the item as a surprise. Since she did not know her birthday, she figured Valentine’s Day was as good a time as any to take the initiative.
When Raines and the rest of the Quirks of Art crew sat down and began to discuss the stories like this one that tug at their heartstrings, they realized there were several other people they felt were deserving of a special Valentine’s Day surprise.
A regular customer going through a difficult time caring for her ailing father, a widower who always feels sad this time of year after the loss of his wife 14 years ago and a woman Raines met briefly at a community event who was celebrating her 90th birthday on Valentine’s Day all made the list for Valentine’s Day care packages stuffed with candies, fuzzy socks, bath bombs, candles and other items from the store.
“We kept making these boxes for someone we love or one of our customers and it just kind of grew into something bigger than we ever expected it to be,” Raines said.
The Quirks of Art crew also wanted to spread the love to other local businesses, so they assembled custom packages for places like the Fat Canary, the Shoe Attic, Nautical Dog and Colonial Sports. The Virginia Beer Company received a piece of art emblazoned with a picture of two refreshing glasses of beer and the quote “Most of the great men of the past were only there for the beer,” given as a gift for their upcoming opening.
“It was just like a ‘hey, welcome to the local business community’ kind of thing,” Raines said.
When all was said and done, the staff at Quirks of Art had assembled and mailed around three dozen boxes containing almost $2,000 worth of items from the store.
The cost was certainly worth it to Raines, who has enjoyed receiving surprised messages and pictures of the delighted recipients opening their gifts over the past few days. The Valentine’s Day care packages, along with Sparkle Friday, are a tradition she hopes to continue for years to come.
“It made me happy to think we made a lot of people smile,” Raines said. “That’s part of the joy of having a store; we get to make people happy."