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Ava Grace Fashions invites you to brighten a friend’s day with a cute, custom package full of beautiful gifts.

In these uncertain times, it is hard to know exactly what to do, how to act, or what to feel the umpteenth time you read this phrase as an article opener. Jessica Maynard-Gilbert, founder and CEO of Ava Grace Fashions in Ellicottville, puts it perfectly: “2020 has come in like a lion, on a sugar high and is whirling like a Tasmanian Devil with all of us holding on tight for the ride.”

Thankfully, though, Jessica has not let closed doors and ever-changing predictions affect her sunny attitude. Instead, she started a revolution.

Ava Grace’s Send-A-Smile movement began with a wish. “The first time I went into Katy's Café, saw a friend, and couldn't give her a hug because of all of this was so overwhelming. I knew I had to come up with a way to connect people even though we can't be close physically,” she says. “I have seen the power of a pretty scarf or a small gift in the store, so I made it as easy as possible for people to do it on our website.”

On shopsendasmile.com, purchasers can choose from one of four gift package levels, ranging from $17 to $47, to send to loved ones, friends, nurses, teachers, and heroes. The wonderful packets of joy are delivered right to their doors, filled to the brim with a hand-selected array of jewelry, pins, scarves, hair accessories, adorable small items, graphic tees, and tops. During checkout, the Ava Grace website encourages you to indicate the recipient’s size, color, hobby, and item preference, as well as draft a personalized note to be included in the parcel. Jessica is behind the scenes, reading every single note and employing her famed intuition to find the perfect items to brighten a day. As a bonus, Ava Grace’s Send-A-Smile packages include free shipping nationwide with discount code ‘freeship’ and the option to ship overseas.

“I want recipients to SMILE, have their day brightened, and feel a virtual hug through the mail when they receive a package,” says Jessica. “The emails I have gotten back from the buyers when their friends call to thank them are so moving and fun. I am in love with helping connect people this way. I think so many of us are working like crazy right now or are feeling lost. Receiving this gift from a friend is just the thing you didn't know you needed.”

Not only can you purchase a gift package for someone you know, but you can donate one to any hero listed on the Ava Grace website nominees page. These are the nurses, teachers, essential workers, and phenomenal individuals working hard to keep everyone safe, fed, well-stocked, and educated. Ava Grace hopes to see more donations being added to online orders as this movement spreads to fill the mailboxes of all kinds of heroes with a little something special.

When all this ends - and we have been assured that it will - the memories of these glorious packages that made that faraway friend, quarantined co-worker, or sad sister-in-law feel surprised, loved, and appreciated will not be forgotten. We are all looking forward to the days when Send-A-Smile can be used for birthdays, new jobs, happy news, and loving surprises, but for now, sending a smile is a reminder of all the good that can exist. From space, an Earth in crisis is still beautiful.