SPRINGFIELD, NJ — In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a pair of young Springfield residents are looking to brighten the days of their neighbors, one painted rock at a time.
For Gianna Czerniak, a local resident and mother of five-year-old Mackenzie and four-year-old Logan, the project began as a result of an earlier gesture the family did, in which the children decorated drawing to hang in their front window.
Czerniak said the activities she has planned for her children are helpful, because it helps to keep them preoccupied during the pandemic.
“It’s been rough," she said. "I’m a teacher, obviously they’re not in school either. So just trying to get them not so scared about it, and happy.”
She noted that the window decorating project received a number of positive comments, and after the window itself was replaced, the family was looking for another activity to help make people smile. That activity came from an Earth Day scavenger hunt, where Czerniak said her children fund a number of rocks in multiple sizes and shapes.
After collecting the rocks, the decision to paint them, and a discussion about what to do with said rocks after painting led to the genesis of the current project.
“I was like, ‘you know what guys? Let’s paint,’" she said. "So it was just another one of those endless days that we decided let’s paint. So then we started painting rocks, and we talked about what could make people smile.
“I had thought, what could we put on them, and my son was like ‘I want Springfield to be happy,’ because we kept saying that the pictures [from the window] would make them happy…we would get a lot of comments on our pictures, so we thought let’s hide [the rocks].”
After her children painted the rocks, Czerniak clear-coated them to make sure the decorations would not wash off, and then hand sanitized them before her children placed the rocks around town at the base of trees.
During the delivery of the rocks, Czerniak said that her kids searched for houses with rainbow decorations or something similar in the window, before placing the rock in a nearby tree. So far, as each rock has been discovered,
“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback and a lot of pictures from the moms in the area.," she said. "I know I’ve gotten some text messages from some of the neighbors [saying] I really made their day. Our little sayings are just something fun.
"[It’s] very positive. A picture one of the moms posted was of her little son. He had just picked up a rock, and he had loved it. He was smiling in the picture…it was really cute.”
While Czerniak has lived at her current house for in Springfield for two years, she and her husband Corey have been residents for nine years. Overall, Czerniak said that the kindness she has seen reciprocated by residents in town has shown her that Springfield is a positive place to be.
“I knew before the whole coronavirus [thing], it was an amazing town, which is why we chose to stay here,” Czerniak said.
One example she mentioned when speaking about Springfield's kindness was the drive-by birthday celebration her neighbors had for her son’s birthday in April.
As of press time, her children are hard at work planning a second batch of rocks to paint and place. She also said the plan from her children is to deliver rocks on a path to their grandmother's house, who lives in town as well. She also had one final message of supports for Springfield residents.
"Stay strong Springfield," Czerniak said. "We're going to get through it together."