Crafters spread goodwill by painting, hiding rocks with inspirational messages.
To some East County residents, Andrea DeStefano and Kelly Granquist might be known as those "weird rock ladies."
To others, they are a blessing.
After meeting in 2010 when Granquist moved to Lakewood Ranch from Seattle, the two began a friendship that included their love of crafts.
“We met at my work," East County's DeStefano said. "I cleaned her teeth and we hit it off.”
Besides loving crafts, they also shared a desire for spreading kindness, and eventually, the Lakewood Ranch Kindness Project was born in June.
The Kindness Project is about painting, hiding and finding rocks that have inspirational words and phrases written on them.
“This project has been a great way to focus on something other than the craziness that’s been happening lately,” Granquist said.
The two started a Facebook Page so those finding the painted rocks could post photos and stories about how they found them. They've already accumulated 1,000 followers on Facebook.
"Everybody’s hunting,” DeStefano said.
Granquist said they both wondered if anyone would join them, but the response to their project has been overwhelming.
Local businesses such as Let's Create Art and Arts A Blaze have become involved.
"A little camper of ours came in one day and she was all excited about the rock she had found," said Arts A Blaze manager Kim Williams. "She went on and on about it. Her mom told me about the Lakewood Ranch Kindness Project. My daughter, Nikki, and I love things like that, so I decided to get the store involved."
It appears the rocks can have healing powers. Granquist heard her neighbor, Marian Wolf, was having knee surgery.
“I saw a post on Facebook, so that morning I rocked her house,” Granquist said. “The rock I picked was one that had the word ‘inspire’ written on the back. Marian found the rock and ‘inspire’ happened to be her favorite word. It made her so happy.”
Wolf, after her surgery, saw the rock sitting in her front yard.
"It made me feel like I was going to recover from surgery much easier," Wolf said. "It made me feel light hearted and happy. It was very thoughtful of Kelly to do that."
DeStefano and her son, Donovin, planted painted rocks in the Freedom Elementary School courtyard during an open house.
“A mom and her daughter found one of them while we were still standing right there," DeStefano said. "They took a photo together and posted it (on Facebook) later that night. It seems so silly, but it makes me so happy that we can make someone smile, even if it is just for a second.”
Both Granquist and DeStefano now have "rock boxes" in their cars filled with painted rocks just in case they want to plant some during their travels. They stock the boxes after holding "Friday Rock Pizza Parties" with their children, Donovin and Dawson DeStefano and Liam, Kallie and Olin Granquist.
They do admit their children's attention to the project tends to waver. “Kelly and I are the ones who stay at the craft table all night and paint rocks,” DeStefano said. “The kids end up playing outside and swimming.”
But Granquist even has managed to get her husband, Tim, involved.
“He paints them all the time,” she said. “Sometimes he gets attached to them and wants to keep them for himself.”
Granquist and DeStefano said they do not want to stop with just rocks.
They hope to expand the project in the future.
“We want to do other things that inspire kindness,” Granquist said. “Maybe that means painting holiday ornaments and giving them to assisted living centers or making greeting cards and sending them to kids in the hospital. If people have ideas we’re open to it.”