‘Stellar’ idea ignites light and hope

Sparta. Teacher’s idea lights up the community and beyond, from Sussex County to Pike.

Newton /
22 Dec 2020 | 03:44

Frankford resident Kate Adam teaches Spanish at Newton High School. Like all of us, she’s seen the effect the pandemic has had on people.

With the darker months upon us, she remembered something she’d seen five years ago. On a whim, she threw it out there on Facebook, calling on people to create. It has led to a sense of community and inspiration, and, most of all, has created light in a time of isolation and darkness.

“About five years ago we were up in Vermont and passed through Mad River Valley,” Adam said. They had so many stars, and it was beautiful.”

The memory prompted her, her husband, and their three children to make a star and put it at the end of their driveway.

“One Friday night, shortly after having to cancel plans for Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania, I thought, ‘Here we are again at home on a Friday night.’”

A (virtual) light went off in her mind.

“What if I put something out on Facebook encouraging people to make their own stars, and not make it just a Christmas idea, but something to last through the dark months of January and February?” she thought.

Pretty quickly her Facebook page, titled “Star Light, Star Bright, Make Frankford and Branchville Shine at Night,” lit up.

The page had 300 followers, initially. Now it’s up to 18,000.

“People loved the idea,” Adam said. “People started posting their stars, and I came up with a map so people can drive around and see them.”

The stars are not just for Frankford and Branchville, but for everyone.

“A woman reached out from Sparta asking to use the idea, so did someone from Philadelphia and Pike County, Pennsylvania,” she said. “Now we have many sister groups of my main group.”

Now, on Friday nights, the Adam family drives around to look at the stars.

“It’s been very eye opening for me,” Adam said. “People have messaged me about how greatly this was needed at this time. My husband loves making stars for neighbors with our kids.”

Make ‘em smile.

Lots of people are making their own stars while others already have ones they are putting up. Folks are getting creative: some are using hangers, others paint stirrers, others yardsticks, and others metal.

The Knights of Columbus in Sandyston is making stars as a fundraiser, and their Facebook page has received pictures of stars from South Carolina, Texas, Canada, and even Germany.

People love this initiative.

Jeanne Heinke of Branchville said it was fun to create her star and drive around to see the others. “When I saw Kate post this idea, I instantly knew I was in, and it made me realize that so many other people are also looking for a sense of belonging and community,” she said. “I’ve seen it in other projects that others have been involved in.”

These are strange times, she said. “People are home, people are separated from that sense of belonging that they crave. The idea of light during the dark winter coupled with the idea of hope during a time when we’re all craving connection just seemed like the greatest idea.

“One by one folks got excited to join in and then had the immense joy of witnessing the beauty and creativity of many. Covid has stopped people in their tracks from normal holiday events and celebrations, but one person made a difference by creating a joyful, safe experience. It took our minds off the news of the day, the restrictions, and gave us all visual hope through community spirit.”

Lisa Palmenberg said her husband made a star for their home on Degroat Road in Wantage, which faces the home of her parents, Rocco and Janet Pascale.

“They loved how it shined and said it made them smile,” she said. “My 82-year-old dad was inspired to make his own. When we saw it hanging, it made us smile. These stars are definitely contagious. I think the Star Light Star Bright initiative is just what we all need after this challenging year. Now, more than ever, we need to shine our light and come together to help bring hope and peace into the world.”

Nadia Hatzinias’s family in Frankford owns the popular Yetter’s Diner in Augusta. They were so taken with the idea, they decided to encourage it with a sweet reward.

“We started the idea when we still had outdoor dining, but it’s still going on now inside,” she said. “Customers who bring in a picture of their star get a free dessert of their choice. We have a board where all of the pictures are displayed.”

Her husband, Tommy, made a star for display at the diner.

“I personally am not taking that star down anytime soon,” Hatzinias said. “This is a fabulous, little thing that is exactly what the community needed. It’s so beautiful to see a star lit and to think that a woman posted this idea on Facebook and it’s given such hope. There’s a star and there’s a light. It’s gonna be okay.”

“These stars are definitely contagious, just what we all need after this challenging year. Now, more than ever we need to shine our light and come together to help bring hope and peace into the world.” Lisa Palmenberg