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Rock a Lehigh Soldier: Group sends inspiration to local man stationed abroad

August 23, 2017
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lehigh Acres Rocks, a Facebook group that paints and hides rocks around Lehigh, is holding a "Rock a Lehigh Soldier" effort.

The group was started back in March by Donna Bower, who got the idea to start the local group from her sister, who is a member of a group in Bartow. Facebook administrator Monica Popaduke now oversees the group's initiatives and events.

"Our purpose is the bring families together, as well as let people know that someone cares. That they are not alone in life," Popaduke said.

Article Photos

Rocks painted with words of hope and encouragement.

Rock a Lehigh Soldier was an idea that came from speaking with fellow group member Karen Stamm, whose son is presently serving in South Korea.

"Recently, there was a story of another group sending words of encouragement through painted rocks to soldiers and it was extremely well received. We decided to do the same here for local families who have a loved one stationed abroad," Popaduke explained.

Cpl. David Stamm, who grew up in Lehigh Acres, is in his fourth year serving in Air Defense. He will be the first soldier to receive the basket of rocks painted with words of hope and encouragement.

"He plans to share the messages by placing rocks out for others to find while in South Korea," Karen Stamm said.

The group has quickly grown, starting out with just a couple of members and now has reached nearly 2,000.

"We are just getting started," Popaduke said. "We plan to do a lot more events this year."

Lehigh Acres Rocks has joined forces with another local non-profit, Mothers Empowering Other Women or MEOW, which primarily focuses on disabled veterans and the mentorship of women.

"We are ready to do some great things within the community," Kimberly Jacobs, MEOW's veteran director, said.

The two groups have already planned their first united fundraiser in collaboration with Pay It Forward Lehigh Acres. The event is called Family Fun Day and it is being held at the Lehigh Acres Church of Nazarene, at 210 Lee Blvd.

"This event is going to benefit victims of the fire on April 21 that left a few families homeless. We are raising money to help a couple named Charley and Elvis O'Neill, who lost everything in that fire, even their cat," Jacobs said.

Families can enjoy food, music, rock painting, games, a bounce house and a raffle at the event. Donations will be accepted throughout the day to help the family rebuild their home and lives.

"The communities outreach has been amazing so far. Blue prints were donated for the building of the new home, as well as materials. There still a lot more to do, so we really need people to get involved," Popaduke said.

Lehigh Acres Rocks and MEOW are also meeting with Keith Campbell, of the PTSD Awareness Summit, to discuss ways that they can help through therapeutic rock painting and the distribution of inspirational themed rocks to veterans, law enforcement officers, first responders and caregivers of those with PTSD.

"We are very excited by this endeavor and it touches home on so many levels," Popaduke said. "Like Kim of MEOW, I too am a widow. My husband was a first responder and watching his early passing caused me to deal with so much, including PTSD."

Lehigh Acres Rocks has a list of upcoming events, including one on Oct. 7 at Pelican's SnoBalls at 601 Williams Ave. The family-fun rock painting event's goal is to bring more awareness to domestic violence.

"The community can get involved by attending our events, making monetary donations, or supplying rocks, supplies and help support the businesses that host our events," Popaduke said.

To join or for more information, visit on Facebook at "Lehigh Acres Rocks," "MEOW Mothers Empowering Other Women Inc.," "Pay It Forward Lehigh Acres" and "PTSD Awareness Summit."



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