SHEPHERDSTOWN – Eastern Panhandle West Virginia ROCKS founder Niki Maestrey never imagined her rock painting group would grow so fast in such a short amount of time.
Created in April 2017, the EPWV ROCKS Facebook group now boasts over 8,500 members, sharing Maestrey’s desire to spread kindness and joy in the community. Members use the Facebook platform to learn about upcoming EPWV ROCKS events, share photographs of “kindness rocks” they have found hidden in public places and post photographs of the rocks they have painted with fun designs and thoughtful messages. Rocks may be hidden somewhere in the Eastern Panhandle or even on the other side of the globe.
“It’s grown quite rapidly. We didn’t expect it to get as big as it did, but I’m so glad that it did,” Maestrey said, as she supervised her newest group of rock painters, 16 Shepherdstown Day Care Center summer campers, on July 11.
SDC Counselor James McDowell came up with the idea to have rock-themed activities — rock cycle, rock-themed games and making homemade rock candy — throughout the week.
“I’ve wanted to do a painting rocks activity in the last year, and then we decided to do a Rock ‘n Roll theme, with a focus on rocks instead of the music,” McDowell said.
McDowell, who has worked at SDC for about 15 years, said he enjoyed seeing the campers exercise their artistic abilities, painting designs inspired by hot dogs, Bart Simpson and nature.
“I know a lot of kids are really artistic when it comes to painting, drawing and coloring, so I figured the kids would love coloring the rocks,” McDowell said.
McDowell and another staff member explained The Kindness Rocks Project concept, founded in 2015 by Massachusetts life coach Megan Murphy, to the campers before they started painting.
According to SDC Director Melissa Hott-Holman, teaching campers how to make “kindness rocks” not only lets them be creative, but also shows them art has the ability to impact people’s lives.
“We thought it would be a way to teach community involvement and spread kindness and joy. The hope is, the rocks will make people smile,” Hott-Holman said, mentioning she was grateful for Maestrey’s help with the activity.
Hott-Holman said the campers will be encouraged to hide the 55 “kindness rocks” they created when they go on field trips this summer.
Shepherdstown Day Care, a 501 (c)3 organization, has been providing affordable, nurturing child care and enriching educational experiences to the children of the working poor in the Eastern Panhandle since 1973. SDC is currently accepting applications for West Virginia Universal Pre-K. For more information about SDC and its programs, visit www.shepherdstowndaycare.org, or contact Holman at 304-876-6923.