Valentine’s Day Cheer at Baywood

Folks at BayWood Nursing Center were in for a big surprise February 14th as students, teachers and other personnel from Melrose Elementary took it upon themselves to spread a little Valentine’s Day cheer.

“We started talking about giving back to the community about six months to a year ago,” Ottesha Williams explained. Williams is co-founder of G.R.O.U.P., a local organization that aims to support orphans, along with the elderly and widowed.

G.R.O.U.P. stands for Glorious, Radiant, Outstanding, Unstoppable and Passionate women all focused on giving back to the community. Williams, who is a fourth grade teacher at Melrose Elementary, is just that kind of woman.

Upon meeting up with fellow churchgoer and owner of event planning company Exquisite Designs Teresa Mathews, both women decided to take the plunge and are now embarking on a new mission — a life of community service.

“It is something that has always been on my heart. She was sharing with me her goals, her vision, and ideas and it went with everything that I was already thinking, so we came together and we made it happen,” said Mathews who credits God with planting a seed of giving in her and allowing her to meet up with Williams.

G.R.O.U.P. joined up with sponsors and students from Girlfriend’s, a program where young girls are mentored by teachers and community leaders, to create the Sweetheart Luncheon for the residents at BayWood, a nursing center that specializes in occupational, physical, and speech therapy. Williams, who is a mentor for the Girlfriend’s program, thought to create an opportunity for the girls to not only fulfill their community service requirements, but to bond with one another.

And since G.R.O.U.P.’s mission is to be a guide for young ladies for generations to come, the setting couldn’t have been better. Both Williams and Mathews used their own money to provide food for the residents, as well as decorating the hall where they ate.

Members of the Girlfriend’s program made Valentine cards and spent the afternoon mixing and mingling with the residents. Something the residents don’t normally see.

“It’s been a long time since the residents have been able to enjoy something like this,” Williams said. “Just a little bit of something different, and I just see smiles.” Smiles from all involved.

Although the Sweetheart Luncheon is the first community service project the women have put on, G.R.O.U.P. has plans to continue helping out in the community. With dreams of providing scholarships to female seniors, adopting local classrooms during back-to-school time, and putting on a Christmas breakfast at a local community center, G.R.O.U.P. has hefty goals and is inching its way to becoming a nonprofit organization.

“All those plans are still in the works,” admitted Williams who aims at creating a membership based organization where people in the community can join up and help make a difference. “We’re not asking people to give an enormous amount of money, just $5 to be a part of us so we can do more things.”

But of course sponsors are always welcome. “It’s just an awesome thing to be able to give back to the community. I’m hoping that it’s going to take us far; that this is just the beginning of it,” said Mattheww.

For more information on G.R.O.U.P. and how you can join or become a sponsor, contact Teresa Mathews at (727) 225-2044 and Ottesha Williams at (727) 290-9260. They can also be reached via email at

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