Woodhaven residents Tracy Gallagher and Nicole Riker are doing their part to uplift neighbors as the city remains in flux, by leaving little traces of comfort around Queens.
The pair was out again on Saturday, scattering “hope rocks” around Forest Park, as well as the streets of Woodhaven, Glendale and Forest Hills.
Gallagher and Riker, along with their children, began painting rocks with inspirational words, pleasant images and powerful symbols on them earlier this month as a means to keep hope alive for their community amid crisis.
They have been placing their creations in nearby parks and playgrounds, as well as in front of funeral homes and police stations so that passersby may stumble upon them.
“I know myself,” said Riker. “If I’m having a hard day and I'm walking home and find a rock that says ‘smile’ or ‘hope,’ just anything positive, that could make my day. And I want to be able to give that to someone else.”
The initiative was inspired by the Kindness Rocks Project, a national movement that encourages people to leave rocks decorated with moving messages throughout their neighborhoods.
The two women wanted to initiate a local offshoot of the campaign, bringing Woodhaven moms and their kids together to paint and experience quality time.
Their plans, however, were thwarted when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and New York City went on lockdown.
That is until Gallagher’s friend in Florida let her know about a “Central Florida Hope Rocks” page she started during the pandemic, posting tutorials and inspiration for making hope rocks and hiding them around the community. Gallagher brought the idea to Riker, and they started a sister page.
“Queens NY Hope Rocks,” as their Facebook group is called, fosters both a sense of community and outlet for artistic expression. Not only has the project given them something to share with their children in quarantine, but the moms want to get other residents involved as well.
Each rock has a label on the back that invites those who find it to post a picture on the Queens NY Hope Rocks page and join in on the campaign with their own stones. Those who feel drawn to the rocks are encouraged to take them home.
“It’s not about us seeing people with the rocks, although that is nice,” explained Gallagher. “It’s more about raising someone's feelings. And sometimes, somebody saying ‘I believe in you’ on a rock is what someone needs to hear.”
“To us it's just fun,” she continued. “But to think about somebody finding a rock and it putting a smile on their face means the world.”