MONTVILLE, NJ – About 85 Montville Moms came to the Hearts of Hope painting event held Oct. 22, where ceramic hearts were painted with inspiring and gratitude-filled messages to be given to the township’s unsung heroes, its emergency workers, to remind them that residents care about them, and thank them for their hard work.

Founder, board president and director Judy Pederson, who was a Montville resident herself and founded the non-profit in her basement, told the painters that she had started the organization with other moms, and they rolled out the clay hearts themselves. Now the company, founded to give comfort to those with hurting hearts and bolster heroes, is bigger, but has the same caring mission.

“We have [presented hearts] in 26 states and so many countries overseas, thanks to the military,” she said that night at the event, held at the Montville Senior House. “We’ve responded to every national tragedy since 9/11. In addition to that, we go to hospitals, burn centers, cancer centers and bereavement camps. We’ve painted hearts before for first responders and I can’t think of a more deserving group of unsung heroes. Even when they say, ‘Aw, this is my job – this is what I do,’ often when we hand them a heart, they say, ‘Wow, this is great – this is really awesome!’”

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Pederson said the method is the same as the painting that was done to get hearts to people following the 9/11 tragedy 18 years ago.

“Groups like you, selflessly come out in the pouring rain and warriors who say, ‘I’m going to do this because it’s awesome, and I can make a difference in an hour’ – and you will,” she said. “These will go to people who will keep them, sometimes, forever.”

A special guest for the evening was Montville Mom and first responder Carol DaCosta, who is a Montville firefighter and a member of the Montville Township First Aid Squad. Attendee Adriane Eoga painted a special 9/11 commemorative heart especially for DaCosta, who, with other members of the first aid squad, responded to what is now known as Ground Zero, but what she described at the township’s 9/11 commemoration this year as “imagine the worst possible thing you can ever imagine, and then multiply it by a million times.” (Read DaCosta’s and fellow first responder Julie Greenfield’s account here.)

“On behalf of Montville Moms, we thank you for your bravery and dedication,” the card to DaCosta read. “But most of all, for being our friend. God bless you and keep you safe.”

In tears, DaCosta said that a week after that tragic day, her sister painted a Heart of Hope and inscribed it with DaCosta’s badge number, placing it at Ground Zero. Her sister has since passed away, she said, “But here we are, years later, coming full circle, and it really does mean a lot, and I thank you all, for everything.”

The hearts are glazed after the paint dries, then a ribbon is tied through the hole at the top so that they can be hung up. The painter fills out a simple card with their first name, town, and a message for the recipient. Painters do not know specifically for whom they are painting. Usually a group will just know a type of group to paint for, such as cancer patients.

To donate or to sponsor a painting event, go to Hearts of Hope.

The Hearts of Hope board would like to thank the R.E.A.C.H. kids for aiding the painters that evening and Red Barn Restaurant for its donation.

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