For over a decade, Purpose Over Pain has answered the call of mothers looking for emotional support after losing their children to the epidemic of gun violence across the South and West Sides.
But with coronavirus disproportionately impacting those same communities, the organization has stepped up to help mothers struggling with isolation brought on by the public health emergency while mourning their lost children.
With Mother’s Day coming up, one of the toughest days for these parents, the group is raising money to gift flower bouquets to 75 West and South Side moms. It’s a gesture to remind them that even though they have lost a beloved child, the unique love of motherhood will continue to bloom within them forever.
“It’s a struggle for a lot of our parents because now they’re stuck in the house… all they do is think about is how their child is not here anymore,” said Pam Bosley, co-founder of Purpose Over Pain. “The flowers going to let you know you’re not alone and that somebody’s thinking about you.”
Bosley is a 2020 Chicago Peace Fellow and is supported by other community leaders in the nonviolence fellowship cohort. Bouquets are being designed by Southside Blooms, a social enterprise flower shop that creates jobs for at-risk youth in sustainable farming. Founder Quilen Blackwell is also a Peace fellow, and said the locally grown flowers show that the same communities that struggle with trauma also have the power to create healing.
“The flowers were grown right here, in a place of pain for a lot of people. But it sort of symbolizes hope… there can be a brighter future,” he said.
The fellows started a GoFundMe to raise $1,500 to purchase the bouquets that, as of last weekend, were scheduled for delivery on May 3, a week before Mother’s Day. Any leftover funds will go towards mutual aid projects driven by the fellows for addressing coronavirus.
“I grew up on the West Side, and losing family members to gun violence is not new,” said Burrell Poe, the director of Chicago Peace Fellows. “This is just another wave of loss that’s hitting people who have been dealing with loss for a long time, even harder.”
Purpose Over Pain typically meets weekly so mothers can support each other and foster a sense of community around the shared experience of loss. But with the stay-at-home order, the group is going virtual and finding new ways to support moms.
One mom, who did not want to use her name, said a bouquet would help to honor the memory of her son.
“I’m a mom who loss my son to gun violence in 2014. I would love to receive flowers as this was something my son always did for me,” she said.
Poe said amid the public health emergency and the ongoing violence in Chicago, the bouquets can show others that a simple gesture can go a long way.
“This is this is a good idea for a lot of people who could potentially be involved,” Poe said. He hopes the project can inspire others to “set up their own spontaneous efforts to really do some intentional outreach to moms who lost loved ones.”
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.