SOMERVILLE, NJ – Slowly, but surely, borough resident Donna Volpe is helping to send a reassuring message to her neighbors here and people in surrounding communities that “Hate Has No Home Here.”
Inspired by similar campaigns in towns and cities across the nation, Volpe launched a grass-roots, one-woman campaign in mid-February, spending $100 on the red, white and blue lawn signs printed in multiple languages that carry the simple message.
She started a Facebook page and GoFundMe campaign online and in short order, she ran out of signs.
More requests for signs are being received daily, according to Volpe.
HHNHH promotes just and inclusive communities by encouraging neighbors to declare their homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship to be a place where everyone is welcome and valued.
The campaign is zero-profit and not affiliated with any political party, candidate, or political organization, according to Volpe, who is a secretary with the Hillsborough Board of Education.
Since starting the local campaign on Feb.15, Volpe has distributed 300 lawn signs in Somerville and surrounding areas.
The movement locally continues to build momentum. She has since expanded the HHNHH Somerville campaign to include Central Jersey, with signs ordered by residents in nearly two dozen towns, including Hillsborough, Bridgewater, Martinsville, Piscataway, Middlesex, Avenel, Dunellen, Flemington, Neshanic Station, Millington, Trenton, Willingboro, Lambertville, Princeton, Belle Mead, Metuchen, East Brunswick and Hackettstown.
“A woman in Clinton purchased 30 signs; I have a feeling I’ll be making a lot of deliveries there,” Volpe said.
Volpe has ordered an additional 100 signs and launched a website on April 1, www.hhnhhsomerville.wixsite.com/home.
The website includes a link to the national HHNHH organization, which features a map showing the locations of those towns in the US that have launched initiatives similar to Volpe’s.
“When I first started central New Jersey was completely blank, but I have been updating the map with the towns that have posted signs and now it’s no longer blank; I take a sense of pride in that,” Volpe said.
The nationwide sign project began with a group of neighbors from North Park, a Chicago neighborhood characterized by its diversity of age, race, nationality and ethnicity.
The phrase used in the poster was conceived by students at Peterson Elementary School; Steven Luce, a North Park neighbor and designer, created the graphics; and neighbors Catherine Korda, Barbara Nordlund, Megan Trinter, Carmen Rodriguez, Jeanne Marie Olson and Kurt Peterson secured the translations, organized and launched the campaign.
Volpe was inspired to join the campaign in the weeks and months following the 2016 presidential campaign, November election and January’s inauguration.
“I was consuming a lot of news and feeling a little distraught at the direction things were going in,” Volpe said. “This gave me a positive direction to go in, it kind of spoke to me. It was something I could handle.
“I’m not very political; I like that fact that is not partisan and I can run it independently,” she added.
Volpe said feedback has only been positive.
“One woman sent me a message telling me about her experience driving through another neighborhood involved with the campaign. She said, ‘almost every business and home on the main road had these signs. There were a significant number on each of the side streets. It felt welcoming and safe.’
“This woman’s experience, to me, captures the spirit of this campaign. Because of generous donations, I am able to distribute posters to local businesses to display so they can join in sharing the message that our community is committed to a diverse and inclusive spirit. Getting involved in this campaign has been a win/win effort for me. I was feeling down with the increased reports of hate-related incidents throughout New Jersey and the country. I feel better for doing my small part in taking action against
“My hope is that those who feel maybe threatened at this time, that this will send them a message of hope,” Volpe said.
“A lot of people I speak to say ‘what difference does it make, we have no voice;’ this is the simplest way to have a voice.
“I love the quote by Desmond Tutu - "Do your little bit of good where you are, it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Tutu is a South African civil rights activist and retired Anglican bishop.
"I see each one of these signs as a little bit of good,” Volpe said.
A minimum contribution of $6 for each lawn sign or $3 for each bumper magnet is requested to cover the cost of printing. Any additional funds collected are paid forward to help launch new “Hate Has No Home Here” campaigns, according to Volpe.
To request a lawn sign or magnet and for more information visit the Hate Has No Home Here - Somerville/Central NJ
Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hhnhhsomervillenj or GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/hhnhhsomerville. The national project website is https://hatehasnohomehere.wordpress.com/.