“I run the volunteer center on (the State University College at Oneonta) campus and I have been able to connect a lot of volunteers,” said Linda Drake, executive director of Center for Social Responsibility and Community at SUNY Oneonta.
The identity of the artists is protected as they are instructed to sign only a first name. Recipients of the hearts who wish to write a thank you note may send an email with a code that is attached to the gift. Organizers at Hearts of Hope will then forward the email to the person who sent the gift.
“Sometimes we have a problem with people following the instructions,” Pedersen said. “Sometimes they put their last name on the card and we have to remove it. We also ask that they not put any religious or political statements on the cards.
“These hearts that are going to Newtown, for instance, we don’t want anti-gun messages or Jesus messages. We do not in any way want to offend anyone. This is about the victims, about giving them comfort and hope.”
The first gift of community painted hearts organized by Pedersen was delivered to New York City emergency responders after the attacks on 9/11. Pedersen said the idea to offer the hearts came out of grief counseling.
“I started out as a hospice worker,” Pedersen said. “I met the art therapists and they seemed to be so helpful. I started bringing a piece of clay into the group discussions. People would be rolling the clay around in their hands, not really making eye contact, and they seemed to be able to talk more easily. They were into the tactile — the feeling of the clay and what they were making – not really concentrating on what they were saying. It seemed easier for people to talk when their hands were occupied.”