When Bradley Gilbert began hanging red bows on mailboxes in Vestavia Hills to help lift the spirits of his neighbors shut in by the COVID-19 outbreak, he had no way of knowing how the idea would blossom. In the first week, Gilbert and his family made and delivered nearly 800 bows to people in the Birmingham area.
It all started when Gilbert was forced to shut down his flower shop, following the March 23 order to close nonessential businesses in Jefferson County to help prevent spread of the coronavirus. This order came just days before Gov. Kay Ivey issued a similar statewide mandate.
“We didn’t want to sit at home, wring our hands and worry about what the future holds,” said Gilbert, owner of Homewood Flowers and Gifts. “Then, I saw a Facebook post from the youth leadership at Vestavia Hills High School asking residents to put bows on their mailboxes, doors and windows to show that we’re all still here, and I realized that was something we could do: Make bows at our house and donate them to people.”
After Gilbert hung his first bow on a friend’s mailbox, word spread like wildfire. The day he began the effort, Gilbert received more than 100 requests from people in Vestavia asking for bows for their mailboxes.
Since then, Gilbert, his wife, Marilee, and their 16-year-old son, Luke, have been hard at work making bows by hand, delivering them to people’s homes across Birmingham and hanging them on their mailboxes.
Gilbert said along with the requests for red bows, people are now asking his family to make white ones to honor the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals working on the front lines to combat this coronavirus.
“We are averaging about 80 deliveries a day and staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning tying bows,” Gilbert said.
He added the response has been “tremendous,” and his family has become known in Vestavia and surrounding communities as the “bow people.”
“We love our community, and just want to do something for them and let them know we are thinking about them,” Gilbert said. “It has really helped keep our minds focused on positive things during the shutdown. Everybody has been so grateful, and we’ve made a lot of new friends. People shout at us from their door and say, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’”
To request a bow for your mailbox or that of a friend or family member, call Homewood Flowers and Gifts at 205-694-9229. With the growing number of requests, donations to help cover the cost of ribbon are welcome. Donations, along with the address of the person you want to receive a ribbon, can be sent to Gilbert’s Venmo account at @Bradley-Gilbert-8.