Commuters stuck at a residential four-way stop in the South Downtown section of Orlando felt the love on Valentine’s Day as volunteers from St. Philips Anglican Church handed a hot pink carnation, a steaming cup of Starbucks coffee and a goody bag to all who opened their car windows. The church had set up tables in a friend’s driveway near the busy corner as seven volunteers, including the Rev. John Cox and his wife, Cathy, served free coffee and treats from 7:30-8:30 a.m.

coffee and flowersJohn says the idea came from a chiropractic student at their church who offered to buy carnations for a St. Valentine’s Day outreach. The church presented their plan in a letter to the local Starbucks, and the retailer donated 150 full services of coffee to make it happen. A St. Philips team then packed goody bags with sugar and creamer, Hershey’s kisses, business cards and Bibles, and included a Valentine with a gospel message, the church’s information and an upcoming schedule.

“We had the benefit of presenting our emerging homework club and our current ministry to families experiencing addictions, as well as our serious commitment to enrich the community,” John says.

The church put up signs reading “A free gift from Starbucks and St. Philip’s Church.” In an hour’s time, they had handed out all the coffee and carnations as the line of cars crept through the four-way stop.

“One lady I gave the flower to started crying,” Cathy says. “I gave seven carnations to a van of severely handicapped adults, and they were all very happy.”

The following day John received an email from a woman they had gifted. “Dear Pastor John,” she wrote, “I got up yesterday morning and my day was off to a miserable start. I was walking my kids to school and this lady comes up to me with a carnation! It made me weep. It was a huge attitude adjustment for me.”

For the church of 40, the Valentine’s outreach quickly and effectively shared Christ’s love.

“There are a lot of things a small church with an older congregation can do to engage people and enrich the community,” John says. “You’d be surprised at the scale of impact. Our neighbors realize we care about them.”

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