On June 12, 2016, 29-year-old Omar Mateen walked into an Orlando gay nightclub and opened fire, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.
When news of the Pulse attack spead, Carrie Frank of Rainier’s “Glaze, Gifts and Giggles” pottery shop sat in front of her television and cried. Then she sprang to action.
Frank was determined to let the survivors and family members of the deceased know that they were loved, even from 3,000 miles away. So she organized an event to paint more than 100 “cups of love” personalized with the victim’s name, which she planned to send to Orlando.
The only problem? She had no idea how to find any of the people she wanted to send the mugs to.
“(I) had to store them because no one, even the LGBT community center in Orlando, would take responsibility to make sure these got to the families,” Frank said. “I tried the hospital, their community relations. I tried the police station at the time. I tried Pulse nightclub management. No one would help me get these to the victims’ families.”
Dejected, Frank gave up for a time. Then just before Easter she contacted the Orlando police department again. That’s when she got in touch with administrative assistant Dorothy Patterson and told her about her “cups of love” project.
“She said ‘I am so glad that we have the chance to talk,’ “ Frank said. “She was on such a natural high from the passion and the love and all that stuff.”
Patterson was able to get Frank in contact with someone who would help her — the Orlando United Assistance Center.
“It’s coming up on that one year anniversary,” Frank said. “Everybody has had time to cool down and other things have gone on in the world unfortunately, but this way at least they’re going to be remembered.”
In the wake of the shooting, a joint effort between the City of Orlando, Orange County Government and United Way resulted in creation of the Orlando United Assistance Center. The center serves as a central navigation point to provide crisis assistance and support for those affected by the shooting.
“Over the past year, we have received so many items, and we have turned them over to the Orlando United Assistance Center that was working with victims and the families, or to the LGBT center, which was also working with several of the victims and families,” said Michelle Guido, a public information officer for the Orlando Police Department.
Thanks to Patterson and officials in the police department, Frank will send off the cups next week. The cups are filled with rainbow-colored jelly beans donated from the Jelly Belly Co., and the cups will be shipped through the Kelso J.C. Penney’s bulk shipping account.
The mugs are individually packaged, so all the center needs to do is write the address of each family or survivor on the box and send it off. Though the project has been delayed many months, Frank said it was “meant to be” because the cups will arrive near the one year anniversary of the Pulse tragedy.
“I’m actually really happy that it happened the way it did,” Frank said. “It’s going to be more meaningful, I think. I hope that it’s more meaningful to them now, a year later, they are remembered.”