Among the thousands and thousands of items and efforts that were offered to the community from well wishers following 12/14, one stood out to town Human Resources Director Carole Ross. It was an offer to populate the town with Hearts of Hope — tiny ceramic hearts with an accompanying message of love from a concerned supporter somewhere across the nation who was touched by the horrific events in Sandy Hook.
But with the crush of incoming goodwill efforts that continue to pour into the Newtown Municipal Center, Ms Ross could only relegate the Hearts of Hope offer to the top of a “hope to do” pile. It was about the same time that community member Judy Vetare arrived asking for something to do to help take the pressure off.
“So Carole turned the offer over to me, I contacted the donor organization and we decided to take them up on their offer,” Ms Vetare said.
But instead of just receiving the thousands of hearts and leaving them to be collected by residents from a central distribution point, Ms Vetare thought the best day to release these personal messages of hope to the community would be February 14.
“We don’t want to focus on the pain of the second month anniversary of that terrible incident,” she told The Bee. “On February 14, we want to focus on the outpouring of love from every corner of the country being directed to all of us here in Newtown.”
The Hearts of Hope will be free to anyone finding and claiming one, Ms Vetare explained.
“Anyone who finds a Heart of Hope is free to keep it as an inspirational message of support,” she said. “I hope everyone who finds a heart of their own is comforted by the fact that there are so many others outside of Newtown who care enough to send their thoughts in this very personal way.”
While Ms Vetare said she has a deep respect for others in the community who are reacting to the events of 12/14 with fundraisers or advocacy, she wants “to focus on helping my community heal from the inside out.”
“If we can focus on love February 14, I hope it will begin helping people with their own healing process,” she said.
In order to be sure the thousands of Hearts of Hope are placed by first light Valentine’s Day morning, she is looking for as many volunteers as possible to fan out across Newtown on February 13 to place and hang the items in public spaces and local neighborhoods.
“I have about 13 volunteers now, but we could use a lot more,” she said.
Anyone interested in assisting with the Hearts of Hope effort on February 13 is asked to Friend and message Ms Vetare on Facebook, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. After Valentine’s Day, volunteers may be asked to continue occasionally hanging or staging any remaining hearts until the inventory that was distributed to Newtown is exhausted.
Hearts of Hope is a project initiated by Interregnum, Inc, a grief support organization based in Cooperstown, N. Y. According to its website, Interregnum was established by Judith Pederse, a former hospice worker who had experienced her own deep personal loss. It was her dream to provide a setting where people facing all of types of loss could be served in comforting, warm environments, and, in October of 2005, her dream was realized with the formation of Interregnum, a non-profit organization.
The organization has continued to evolve, and is now officially known as Interregnum Inc, Finding Life After Loss, with a mission “to help people learn to find life after loss.”