A group of churches are aiming to replace bought Valentine's Day presents with free gifts in a bid to show real love lasts the whole year round.
The RealLove Campaign involves churches from Wakefield to Truro in Cornwall who are giving out handmade hearts, Valentine's cards and handmade biscuits to a range of people in the local community.
It's the idea of Wakefield Methodist minister, Rev Rob Cotton and aims to reach people with the message they aren't forgotten, are loved and valued - particularly during the pandemic when many are struggling with their mental health, loneliness and isolation.
Rev Rob Cotton says the campaign is about showing that real love is not just for Valentine's Day:
"Well, it all began right back at the first lockdown when we wanted to express to elderly vulnerable people who were isolating that they were not forgotten, that they were still loved. So we made hearts for them. And I remember one elderly lady Betty, we couldn't get to visit her because it was in lockdown in a home. But she tied her heart to the walking frame and then said, I know that the church are with me that I'm not forgotten that I'm still loved, that I'm part of the church. And that story stuck with me so that when I moved here to Wakefield, the idea began to develop. How could we express love to the whole of the community, not just to one or two elderly members?"
"So we're actually distributing 4000 hearts, as well as cream teas, there are scones that are heart shaped to elderly, vulnerable people. We're even sending out Valentine's real love cards to teachers and other key workers. So the whole campaign is really developed as something that is perhaps turning on its head Valentine's Day. People are trying to sell you things with cards, roses or chocolates and the prices tend to always go up, don't they? But this is totally free. It's an expression of love from Christians and local churches who want to demonstrate that they care and that they love their neighbours."
Every heart that is distributed has lines of text attached to tell recipients about God's love for them:
"We're not trying to get at people, but we want to be clear and upfront with why we do what we do. So we love because he first loved us is a key verse for us. But what I'd say to people is that real love is not just for Valentine's, it's certainly for Easter, in that it's about sacrificial love, Jesus died for us. But it's also for Pentecost as God through His Spirit enables us not just to do real love, but to be real love, for him and for other people. And obviously beyond that, and for the whole of the year, we want people to know, God's real love for them."
‘Real Love’ is launched as a campaign this weekend at ‘Firefest Live.'