Kenwood family spreads goodwill to neighborhood sheltering at home to slow coronavirus
On Hoff Road off Highway 12 just west of Kenwood on Friday morning, 7-year-old Hartley Howland leads her 3-year-old brother Theo to a spot in the road where his name is written in pink chalk. He immediately stomps on it with both feet.
But they are joyous stomps. They are “I’m happy to be outside” stomps, or “That’s my name!” stomps, or “Aren’t we lucky to live on Hoff Road?” stomps. Because Hoff Road, a dead-end country lane about a half-mile long, is now adorned with a simple declaration — “WE LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS” — written in chalk, each letter about 5 feet high.
Along with the message are drawings of trains, an orange slice, a palm tree, a couple of stars, a heart and, of course, Theo’s name.
It was the brainchild of the Stocks family. The Stocks — Jeff and Connie and their two sons — have lived at the end of Hoff Road for 12 years. Their sons, Joshua, 12, and Jayden, 8, were raised here. And the Stocks, like everyone else in Sonoma County and seemingly on planet Earth, are following shelter-in-place orders and trying to make their way under new social and behavioral rules intended to slow the coronavirus pandemic.
The kids are out of school and Jeff Stocks, a pilot with few passengers to fly, is home from work. So everyone is trying to navigate the “new normal.” Doing schoolwork from home is part of that. And art is part of the curriculum, so Jeff Stocks went big — How about creating what is essentially a street mural? It ticks the box on an art project and ticks another box of sending good cheer to friends and neighbors in these unsettling times.
“It was my husband’s idea to say ‘Hey, why don’t we just write a real positive message for the neighbors on the road?’” Connie Stocks said. “So that is how that all came down to putting a gigantic ‘We love our neighbors’ in chalk colors and trying to make it colorful and pretty.”
It was a way of saying hello and sending goodwill, all at a safe distance.
“We have lots of neighbors that are out and about,” Connie Stocks said. “That is the nice thing about being out in the country, all of our neighbors take walks some time during the day. Everybody is happy to get out, get a little ray of sunshine.”
And she’s quick to note, all walk at a safe distance from one another.
On Friday morning the message drew in neighbors Karen Bowron, then Teri and Steve Read, then Hartley and Theo Howland and their mom, Maggie. All live on Hoff Road and all stopped to look at the message at their feet, to notice the orange slice and palm tree, and of course, to chat with the Stocks.
That was the idea all along.
“They’re thinking of other people,” Teri Read said of the Stocks’ work. “The neighbors, everyone is kind of in this together obviously … wanting to put a smile on somebody’s face, so that’s great.”
And part of that smile comes from the sheer size of the thing. It’s so big it’s almost hard to take in exactly what it says.