Skip to Content

Youth Volunteer Project Sparks Positivity in Eastern Oklahoma

Youth Volunteer Project Sparks Positivity in Eastern Oklahoma

The Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System welcomed youth volunteers back June 7-July 31 as part of the Youth Volunteer Summer Program facilitated by the Center for Development and Civic Engagement.

Students had the opportunity to work in many areas, interacting with Veterans and their families at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center and Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic.

In addition to their regular duties, the student volunteers were also tasked with a final project – creating and filling rock gardens at their facilities.

The inspiration for the rock gardens came when Dr. Kimberly Denning, medical center director, and Eugene Schmidt, assistant director, visited the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System and saw a rock garden there.

“They thought it was such a great idea and wanted to bring it to our eastern Oklahoma Veterans and staff,” said Candice Jordan, CDCE chief. “We loved the idea and thought it would be a fantastic project for our youth volunteers to make their time with us even more memorable. They would get to create something that would continue to give back to our nation’s heroes for years to come.”

These painted rocks, also referred to as kindness stones, are simply rocks that are decorated with an inspirational message. The gardens created consist of painted rocks with a variety of imagery and motivational quotes.

“The point of the stone painting is to sprinkle positivity around our VA facilities,” said Jordan. “The idea is for our Veterans, staff, and visitors to find a rock they enjoy – one that speaks to them!  Sometimes a simple message of love and compassion can spark joy and brighten someone's entire day.”

The volunteers loved the project and soon were encouraging Veterans and staff to join in on the fun to add to the gardens at both facilities. There have been rocks added to the gardens almost daily, which have been painted by Veterans, employees, community organizations, and the youth volunteers themselves!

“We have a lot of services now reaching out to donate time to paint rocks for us as part of their team building action plans for co-worker relationships,” said Jordan. “We even learned our local Human Resources team is having a contest! In addition, we have also had Veteran art groups painting rocks and placing them. Everyone is excited to share positivity and kind words with others. It is so heartwarming to see.”

The service has now placed gardens at Tulsa, Muskogee, and Bartlesville locations. They would love to see them at all facilities and are currently working with site planners to continue expanding. That expansion will rely upon donated rocks and volunteers to paint them.

“Our team really appreciates all who are supporting our efforts to continue and grow this project started by some amazing youth,” said Jordan. “We encourage anyone who is interested in  volunteering or contributing to our rock gardens to reach out to us! The more the merrier!”

To learn more: