Newtown CT Rocks: Dedicated To Creating Random Acts Of Kindness

Published: October 28, 2017 at 12:00 am


Charlie Brown may have uttered a disappointing "I got a rock" while trick-or-treating in It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but people across the country are finding painted rocks with simple designs that are meant to make them smile.

Two local women, who have yet to meet but are each coordinating efforts for local residents interested in participating in a growing hobby, have picked up on a national fad and brought it to Newtown. Small hand painted rocks are popping up in unexpected places.

The idea is very simple: find a rock, paint a simple positive message and/or image onto it, and then leave the rock somewhere safe for someone else to find. Those who find the rock can keep it or pass it on to someone else. Those who keep the rocks are asked to create one or two more, and then hide them. In addition, those who find rocks are asked to post photos of the discoveries online.

Newtown CT Rocks is a the name of a Facebook page coordinated by Sandy Hook resident Lois Barber. It is also the name used by a group of local residents who meet weekly at the community building at Nunnawauk Meadows.

Mrs Barber saw a segment about a popular way to offer a random act of kindness on CBS This Morning back in February. The five-minute offering in the program's ongoing series "A More Perfect Union" introduced viewers to what CBS called "a simple but unusual hobby."

Small rocks - really none that are much larger than an adult palm - are being painted by people of all ages, who adorn the rocks with bright paint and simple messages. Recent posts to Newtown CT Rocks show stones that are now bright orange, with the word Strength across the front, painted in Newtown but left for someone to find in Florida. Other rocks also left in the Sunshine State feature similar messages: Faith, Hope, Love.

Much closer to home, local painters have been covering rocks with smiley faces, dog paws, chickens, even a giraffe; turning them into bright pink pigs, or painting colorful feathers across them.

The rock hiding trend, according to Dana Jacobson's televised report, started in 2016 in Washington state.

"I thought it would be great to bring it to Newtown," Mrs Barber said of the painted rock hobby. "I am trying to bring some joyful community spirit to our town."

Mrs Barber launched a Holiday Decorating Contest last year, and was looking for something else to continue the positive effort.

"I am hoping that Newtown CT Rocks would be something fun throughout the year," she said. The Facebook page includes CT in its name because Newtown Rocks was already snagged by a group in Pennsylvania, Mrs Barber discovered when she first tried to create the local page.

There are a few ground rules: no political rocks, nothing offensive, and leave the rocks in a safe place. Those three points were all based on what Mrs Barber heard in February while watching the CBS This Morning segment.

Nancy Powell Pierson, who started Northeast Ohio Rocks! last summer, said she has received criticism for not politicizing the effort, but she is adamant about the purpose of the group, which counted more than 55,000 members at the beginning of the year.

(By April of this year, the group was boasting more than 100,000 members, according to a story at MarthaStewart.com. The same story, "Here's Why You're Going to See Painted Rocks Hidden Everywhere," also mentioned that there were an estimated 500 rock painting groups across the country at that time.)

"We're not here to support issues," Ms Powell Pierson told Dana Jacobson. "We're not here to support candidates. We're not here to support causes.

"We're here to promote kindness and sharing with each other," she added.

The Newtown group, said Mrs Barber, "is based on what Ohio did."


Weekly Painting Group

Sue Corey discovered the Newtown CT Rocks Facebook page a few months ago, after tripping upon Enfield Rocks, another Connecticut group.

"The idea behind the whole movement is kindness," said Mrs Corey, who has been coordinating a local group that paints rocks each week. "It's also an effort to get everyone outside and away from devices."

Mrs Corey began painting rocks on her own. Then she visited with some friends at Nunnawauk Meadows, "and they were gung ho to try it," she said in early September.

By the middle of last month, Nunnawauk Meadows resident Dolores Meehan had also become a regular painter, and was right there alongside Mrs Corey for painting sessions. The women have also spent time hiding the majority of the rocks painted by Nunnawauk Meadows residents.

While the majority of those who join them in recent months have been residents of the community, Mrs Corey and Mrs Meehan would both love to see a larger representation of Newtown's population join them as well.

"It's beautiful work," Mrs Meehan said recently.

She and Mrs Corey spend most Tuesday afternoons at the community building. In recent weeks, the women have created labels that are now affixed to the back of each rock before it is hidden. The labels let people know that their new discoveries can be kept or rehidden, but that the group would like to see a photo posted at Newtown CT Rocks of the rock and its finder, whether they decide to keep the rock or hide it for someone else to find.

"We want people to know what to do when they find these rocks," Mrs Corey said. "It's so exciting to go to Facebook and see someone holding your rock, with a big smile."

The women have been leaving rocks all over town, they said, including at some schools, near supermarkets, and even in front of The Newtown Bee's office on Church Hill Road. Three rocks were left near the newspaper's front walkway in late August. One afternoon, they hid nearly two dozen painted rocks around town.

Their group usually gathers around 2 or 2:30 on Tuesday afternoons.

"Anybody can come," said Mrs Corey. "We have plenty of room." The group works for about two hours at a time, she said.

Mrs Meehan said the gatherings have been enjoyed by many.

"Everyone's excited about it," she said. "It's something different, and fun, and easy."

The women also have plenty of supplies. When she arrived for the October 3 painting session, Mrs Corey opened not only a large container of paints and brushes, but also unveiled a basket filled with rocks she had found the previous weekend while visiting a beach in Milford.

The group expects to continue placing rocks around town into November, but will take a winter break once snow arrives.

"We plan to keep painting through the winter," said Mrs Corey. "And then we'll have a full supply to begin placing again in the spring."

A growing notebook offers suggestions for those who may need an idea to get started, and the ladies have plenty of patio paint and Krylon to decorate and then protect the rocks.

"You don't have to bring anything," said Mrs Corey, "just excitement."

The Nunnawauk Meadows Community Building is at 3 Nunnawauk Road. Drop-ins are welcome, or Sue Corey can be reached by calling 203-300-3083 for additional information.

A Newtown CT Rocks display will be on view November 1-17 at Newtown Municipal Center. Lois Barber expects to have a few dozen examples of the rocks for displayed in the main corridor at 3 Primrose Street. The public will be invited to pick rocks that speak to them at the end of the presentation.

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