My Beloved Widows: Themed luncheons offer 'safe haven' for widows

St. Cloud widows share friendship, understanding, renewed confidence

ST.CLOUD, Fla. – Darlene Maresco, president and co-founder of My Beloved Widows, is this week's Getting Results Award winner. 

Maresco started the nonprofit in 2011 as a way to honor women in St. Cloud who have lost their spouses.

Every two months Maresco opens her home to over 60 women. Music and laughter fill the air of her 2,300-square-foot home and a line of guests stretches out into the driveway. Everyone gets a hug and a nametag as they enter.

"Hugs are big," Maresco says. "We hug them when they come in, we hug them when they leave."

This month's theme is the "Mad Hatter's Tea Party." Maresco and a group of volunteers started decorating the house a day in advance. 

"Everybody puts widows in the category of senior citizens," she says. "They're not just senior citizens. Widows are women who have lost their husbands, they've lost their companions. It's not the same. Life has changed for them."

This was Paulette Dube's first luncheon. She was married for 50 years and just recently lost her husband. Dube said she was hesitant to come at first.

"I knew I would be with all ladies that had broken hearts like I did," she continues, saying the friendship and conversation have been a blessing. "I just cannot wait until next time."

Maresco said that's the point.

"I've seen transformations," she said. "They're sitting with women that understand exactly what they're going through." 

My Beloved Widows founders state in printed material,"Through our ministry, the ladies discover understanding of themselves so that they are able to recover their joy for life, regain their identities, and look forward to their futures."

Victoria Frisenda sat with friends playing a card game and talking about the desserts in front of them.

"We all have the same grieving process, every single one of us," she said. "But we don't even talk about that."

Maresco was nominated by Dawn Streeter, victim's advocate and administrative assistant with the St. Cloud Police Department. Streeter was asked to speak about fraud and elder abuse at one of the past luncheons. 

"They're just here to support and encourage each other," she said. "This is a safe haven where they can be open and not worry about ulterior motives."  

The idea started with a simple request from Maresco's mom, Bertha.

"She came to me and said she wanted to host a luncheon for widows. And I said, 'OK, we can do that.'" Maresco said. "Twenty-three women showed up in blind faith not knowing what we were doing."

Now, Maresco is limited by the size of her home. There is a waiting list for women who would like to attend. She said it's her dream to one day have a building dedicated to hosting events for her members. 

My Beloved Widows hosts luncheons five times a year and an annual open house at Christmas time. They are looking for volunteers and sponsors for future events. You can find more information at MyBelovedWidows.org.

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