When the Tubbs Fire swept through Sonoma County and brought tragedy and devastation, everyone in the community was trying to figure out how to help. “We were all walking around like zombies, it was so devastating,” recalled Sue Meechan, former owner of The Pottery Studio on 4th Street downtown Santa Rosa, which has since closed. She remembers feeling unsure of how to help in the wake of such a huge disaster, but she noticed how others really wanted a way to express their desire to help too. One day, after a conversation with a fire survivor from Coffey Park, she got inspired. Whenever people came to the studio, she invited them to paint a tile. The tiles ranged from statements of gratitude for first responders, encouraging expressions of community strength (#sonomastrong), and images of natural beauty and messages of hope. Altogether over 120 4-inch square tiles formed a unique and colorful collection painted by participants of all ages. (perhaps you painted one, too?!) Once the collection was complete, it was gifted to Coffey Strong, to possibly be included in the park rebuilding efforts for the community to enjoy.
In Coffey Park, all of us who have lived through the rebuild know that the process is long and complex, so these tiles sat in storage for a few years before we could decide how best to use them, when and where. As it happens, it was not possible to use the tiles in the park rebuild, so after thinking through many ideas we decided to create a series of mosaic stepping stones with them, which is now a ‘Resilience Pathway’ located on the southwest corner of Hopper Avenue at Coffey Lane. The colorful tiles add a cheerful and encouraging reminder of all that we have lived through and how the broader community rallied to help us every step of the way.
In addition to these colorful stepping stones, we created a series of six additional stepping stones which could inspire you to stop and take a mindfulness moment. These stones highlight words which are keys to personal resilience and healing: Kindness, Generosity, Empathy, Hope, Gratitude and Resilience. We have certainly seen plenty of these ideals come to life in the mutual support we each experienced in our efforts to recover after the fire. With this pathway, we hope that these words form our foundational values for community health and wellbeing. Together we certainly are #coffeystrong.
By Pamela Van Halsema