For more than five years, the Ark, a non-profit organization that serves low-income, working families in the Athens, Georgia, area, has been providing flowers and cards for single mothers on Mother's Day.
Juana Hulin, a single mom to three daughters who was diagnosed with stage four cancer in April 2015, says receiving both financial assistance from the Ark during her cancer treatments and being surprised by the Ark with a special treat on Mother's Day were crucial parts of getting back on her feet after her diagnosis.
"I'm a single mom, and sometimes as mothers, we don't worry about ourselves because we just want our kids to be OK," Hulin told TODAY Parents, explaining that the Ark provided her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a handwritten card — both provided by an anonymous donor — for Mother's Day in 2016.
"It brought tears to my eyes because the thought of someone thinking of you on Mother's Day who doesn't even know you — it just really warmed my heart and lifted my spirits," said Hulin.
Stephanie Cockfield, financial education director at the Ark, says Hulin received a gift as part of the organization's Adopt-a-Mom program. Now in its sixth year, the program provides flowers and a card to single moms and moms and grandmothers in nursing homes.
"Adopt-a-Mom got started based on us wanting to meet a need in the community that we didn't see was being met," said Cockfield. "The majority of people that we help are single, working moms and we thought, 'What can we do to better serve them and also recognize them for what they're doing?'"
For a $25 donation, sponsors can choose the name of the mom they wish to adopt from a list found on the Ark's website. Local sponsors donate flowers and cards for the moms, allowing the Ark to place the entire donated amount into a single mothers' fund that is used throughout the year to help moms in need with their financial difficulties.
"It's helping a mother celebrate Mother's Day," explained Cockfield, "but it's also helping moms throughout the year. What we're about is empowering people and wanting them to know how special they are. It takes a lot to come into an agency and ask for assistance...and that tugs at our hearts and makes us want to let them know we see what they're doing and we want to show them they are not alone."
In 2018, 266 moms were adopted through the program and the Ark raised nearly $9,000 to help single mothers throughout the year.
This year, more than 250 single moms and isolated mothers and grandmothers make up the list. 178 moms have been adopted so far, and on May 9, 2019, the Ark will distribute flowers and cards to every sponsored mother and grandmother.
Hulin says she hopes to see all of the moms in her community adopted this year, as she knows firsthand how much such a small gesture can mean to a struggling, single mother.
"You don't know what someone else is dealing with," said Hulin. "You don't know if they have anybody to even think of them. And for the Ark to do this — I just love it so much."
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 4, 2017.