’Hope is contagious’: Ardmore nonprofit decorates sheriff’s office with messages of hope using sidewalk chalk

Sierra Rains
Impact Ardmore, a local nonprofit, decorated the sidewalks of the Carter County Sheriff's Office with messages of encouragement this week amid COVID-19 concerns.

We need you, we believe in you, we thank you’. Those were just some of the phrases that could be seen inscribed in colorful chalk on the sidewalks of the Carter County Sheriff's Office this week.

The sidewalk chalk artists spreading messages of hope and appreciation for many first responders across Carter County are volunteers from a local nonprofit called Impact Ardmore. Executive Director Misty Apala said they are calling the movement the Inspire Campaign.

Amid COVID-19 concerns, Apala said some first responders have received a bit of backlash and the campaign is a way for community members to show first responders that they do support them and are standing beside them in uncertain times.

“Hope is contagious and we’re believing that as the community starts to see that hope, that they too stand with that,” Apala said. “And that we come together and all see the bright side and see the good side of what these first responders are doing and not get on the whole band wagon of ‘You’re not doing it good enough’ or ‘You can’t tell me what to do’.”

Three volunteers spent around two and a half hours writing prayers, bible verses and messages of encouragement at the Carter County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.

Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant said first responders are under an immense amount of pressure and stress while adapting to recommendations and regulations regarding COVID-19. To see the positive messages left in chalk at the sheriff’s department on Wednesday was a bright moment for many officers, he said.

“It’s kind of a boost for everybody with everything that is going on right now in our society and in our county,” Bryant said. “Our officers are very thankful and I’m very thankful for the group and what they’re doing.”

Impact Ardmore began the campaign by decorating the sidewalks of Ardmore Mercy Hospital at the beginning of the week. The sheriff’s office marked the second location where volunteers left inspiring messages — and there will be many more to come, Apala said.

Over the weekend and into next week Apala said volunteers are planning to visit three local fire stations, the Southern Oklahoma Ambulance Service, the Chickasaw Nation Health Clinic and local nursing homes.

While working to spread hope, Apala said the group is also taking strides to make sure volunteers are practicing social distancing. Many of those at one location are individuals who are family members or have been living in the same quarters and the numbers of volunteers at each location is being limited.

“I’m being very intentional with sending certain groups to certain locations because of the social distancing,” Apala said. “We are being very mindful of that. That’s one of the things that I do pray that the citizens know, that we are paying attention to the social distancing.”

Anyone looking to join the campaign is also welcome to volunteer, Apala said. “I would love more volunteers because the more volunteers there are, the longer our stretch will go across our community and I don’t anticipate just doing this one time per location.”

As time goes on, Apala said she would like to have volunteers renew their work at certain locations and add on to what they did before. Ideally, the group would also continue with the campaign even after the concerns over COVID-19 have passed, she said.

“I hope that people take this on themselves — go write on your neighbor’s sidewalk, just let people know that they matter,” Apala said.

To volunteer, individuals can call or text Impact Ardmore at (580) 504-5771, visit the nonprofit’s Facebook page or visit impactardmore.org.

“This right here helps us and encourages us,” Bryant said. “I would encourage everyone to help them a little bit with the supplies they need to continue their efforts and showing folks that they’re here to stay and help them because we need to see more messages like this around our county and our community.”