Erica Sweetser works at two businesses on Pleasant Street and considers downtown Claremont her home. While walking to work Wednesday, she found graffiti marking up almost every surface: “The trashcans, store windows, the sidewalk, stop signs, bank property, the high school windows, and on that large fence behind the school.”
She walked around in the rain taking pictures of the writing, which included obscenities and insults, then went to the police station, where she talked to a police officer and showed him the pictures.
“When I got home I was still so disturbed,” said Sweetser. The fence is right behind Stevens High School, where kids walking to school were guaranteed to see the writing. “I knew the owner of the house with the fence lived in Florida, Vivian Ferguson, so I reached out to her and offered to paint it. She agreed.”
Sweetser reached out to some friends and kids she knows, then went and bought supplies. On Thursday morning, eight kids, from toddler to teen age, repainted the defaced fence.
“No one needs to look at the obscenities that were written, least of all children heading to school,” said Sweetser. “Often, we look to the city, our government, to solve our problems. There are things that everyone can do to help the community, even children can!
“The best part for me, is knowing these kids will remember painting that fence every time they pass it. They will have community pride. I had my 4-year-old paint. Markita Johnson Miller had her three children paint. One of them is 3 years old, the other two are adolescents. Kiara Sawyer is a middle schooler, as well as Audrina Peyton, Jennifer and Emily Currier are twin seniors.”
Sweetser said she is planning to clean up more of the obscene writing, after she gets the property owners' permission. “Those kids wouldn't pass each other in everyday life. They worked together and painted someone's fence! The kiddos, and more, are willing to help.”
“I challenge everyone to try to do one thing, even a small thing, to make the community better,” she said.
-- GLYNIS HART
(Shown in the photo above, from left: sign-painters Emily Currier, Tyler Miller, Markita Johnson-Miller, Janelle Miller, Abigail Garrett, Kiara Sawyer, Audrina Pelton and Jennifer Currier. Logan Miller isn't in this photo, but he was a painter too.)