CHENANGO COUNTY – In April 2017, a Facebook group dubbed “Chenango County ROCKS!!!” was founded by Norwich resident Jessie Siracuse Pepe in an effort to help brighten someone’s day using nothing more than randomly placed painted rocks.
Three months and over 4,600 members later, the group now fosters a digital community for locals of all ages to share the rocks they have created and encountered throughout Chenango County.
Pepe says she was inspired to create Chenango County Rocks after her high school best friend founded a similar page in “Broome County Rocks.”
“I thought to myself, ‘This would be a really great thing to do in Chenango County,” Pepe said. “When I started, I just invited the people on my own personal Facebook page. But it’s really picked up some speed and I think it’s been a nice thing for the community.”
The premise is simple: Decorate a rock however you’d like and leave it somewhere for a stranger to find in the hopes that finding the rock will bring that stranger joy.
Dozens of members opt to post in the group daily, updating one another on the rocks they have created, found, and “relocated,” but Pepe says the only real rule for the group is to offer gestures of kindness without expecting anything in return.
“I remind members in our group all the time: It’s great if you see your rock on Facebook, but if you don’t, that’s okay too because this is for everybody. It’s not just for people who use the internet or who use Facebook, it’s for anyone who can stumble on one of these rocks and feel a little happier,” Pepe said. “It teaches kids, and adults too, about doing something nice for somebody else when you really aren’t going to get anything in return.”
Participants in the Chenango County Rocks Facebook group have bought into the idea of kindness without another motive, Pepe says, as evident in instances like when members have brought painted rocks to the steps of local nursing homes so that immobile residents could take part in the fun.
Pepe mentioned another instance where a school counselor reached out to her and thanked her for the group’s existence. The school counselor told Pepe that a student of theirs had found strength and hope in a Chenango County Rock at a time when the student needed it.
Pepe says that the response she’s gotten from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I can’t tell you the number of really nice messages I’ve gotten from people who really love it,” said Pepe. “Parents have sent me messages saying they think it’s the best thing to happen in the community in so long. When their kids find rocks, they say it’s like Christmas morning.”
To join in on the fun, look up “Chenango County ROCKS!!!” on Facebook, or simply paint a rock and hide it.
“It doesn’t matter your socio-economical status,” said Pepe. “It’s free. It’s for everybody.”