KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The coronavirus is keeping people apart. But Florese Nelson has found a way to change that for women across the region.
In March, she created the Facebook group, ‘Unexpected Smiles.’ Nelson started it as a way for women to connect, share stories and exchange gifts from their Amazon Wish List.
“Just getting that knock at the door and getting that package made me feel like, somebody saw me, somebody out here in the world is thinking about me,” Nelson said. “So I just thought of a way to help other women that may just be really struggling with not having that outside.”
The group is open to all women. The only rule — posts about politics, religion, or current events aren’t allowed. Members say this creates a space where women can be vulnerable.
“It just allows us to really connect and say ‘hey sis, I love you’ ‘hey sis, I see you’ ‘hey sis, you are important’,” member, Ashley Nicole said.
Initially Nelson only expected about a couple dozen women to join her group. But now it’s grown to over 7,000.
Unexpected Smiles has become more than an Amazon gift exchange group. The women have also created an outreach wish list for women in need.
“We’ve paid rent for ladies, we’ve paid light bills, we’ve bought plane tickets for people whose family members have passed due to COVID-19. We’ve bought tires, we’ve put gas in cars,” Nelson said.
The group has put a ‘power hour’ in place. This allows group members to share about their entrepreneurial endeavors. Ashley Nicole was able to share her book, ‘The Secret Place’.
“It allowed me to encourage and uplift women who were probably in a very depressive state, or in a relationship that’s not healthy,” Nicole said.
While this group was formed during stay-at-home orders. Nelson believes this is more than a phase, but rather a movement of love and acceptance.