LANHAM – Connie Gilmore was awarded a proclamation by the county council for her community service with her nonprofit organization Premature Widow on June 5.
Premature Widow Ministries, LLC is an organization founded to give support, fellowship, ministry, and resources to widows, particularly young widows, providing a sisterhood and a message saying that they are not alone.
After hearing of Premature Widow’s Jazz Brunch on April 28, District 5 Councilwoman Andrea Harrison reached out to inform Gilmore of the honor. Gilmore was awarded at the council’s legislative session for her “steadfast dedication and inspirational spirit to the grieving women and children of Prince George’s County.”
“I was completely floored and excited,” Gilmore said. “It was a day I’ll never forget. I was honored to be awarded by the county I was born, raised, and educated in.”
Gilmore started Premature Widow in 2016 after losing her husband in June 2014. She became a 40-year-old widow with three children and quickly realized that there was no public support system for young widows.
“I was looking for someone who could relate,” Gilmore said. “My mother and mother-in-law had enjoyed 40-plus years of marriage. I was looking for support.”
She soon met another young woman who was also looking for the same support, and they became the change that people wanted to see. It started out with blogging and posting on social media. They began to gain a following, and it became very evident that there was a need for this kind of movement.
Premature Widow became an official organization starting out with just three members. Their member base has grown exponentially ranging all the way from Florida to New Jersey.
Since its inception, Premature Widow has held various events that seem to get bigger each time. In November 2017, they hosted a retreat in Chantilly, Virginia where there were 31 members in attendance. At their second annual Jazz Brunch on April 28, there were 165 people in attendance while there were only 95 people who met at the first event. In September they will have a conference with a three-city tour starting in Atlanta, Georgia.
As Premature Widow grows, the organization has an opportunity to develop even more after they have partnered with local churches who have assisted in holding movie nights and Q&A sessions. Not only does Gilmore reach out to widows, but also the children affected and those who may not be widows but want relationship advice.
Gilmore helps women in all kinds of circumstances. Some, like her, were thrust into the role of a caregiver to a sick spouse. Others dealt with a sudden death or murder. She frequently helps those whose husbands were victims of racial injustice or hate crimes.
“This kind of thing happens so much within our community,” she said. “I’m in contact with widows who have been in the public eye. People refer them to me, and I get messages all throughout the week. They realize we’ve been there. That’s when they really need support.”
When going through such a loss, women often deal with external factors such as loss of income, their home, their sense of security, and of course companionship, Gilmore said.
“I met my husband when I was 11-years-old in church,” she said. “He was my friend, and he was my prom date. I lost more than my husband. It helps to have a group of women you can talk to.”
Gilmore wants to continue to be a voice and an advocate for widows and see Premature Widow continue to grow. One of her goals is to get the surrounding community involved for more people to see what they are all about and gain more widow support.
“This is so near and dear to my heart,” Gilmore said. “I want to reach as many people as possible, provide resources, and expand as far as we can. This organization has blossomed, fortunately, yet unfortunately, but I’m grateful.”