Despite the unsettling times, members of the Gifford and Rantoul communities are doing their best to put smiles on people’s faces.

Gifford resident Nicole Hammond started a Facebook group called “Gifford (social distancing) Strong.” The intention of the group is to keep children busy and spirits up for everybody.

One of the main things that group has been doing is putting paintings in the windows of there homes so people can walk around and enjoy them. About 20 houses in the Gifford area are now decorated.

Hammond said she got the idea from another Facebook group.

“There is a Facebook group that has like 100,000 followers from all over the United States and I think even Canada. And they were doing the paintings, so I talked to some of the moms in the area, and they thought it was a good idea,” Hammond said. “I know of at least five different families that have posted in the group and others who have posted that are painting; they just haven’t gotten it up yet.”

Bears in window

Jessica Holmes put two bears in the window of her home in Rantoul to try to give people a reason to smile.

Another Facebook post started a similar operation in Rantoul. Resident Jessica Holmes said she saw a post about outting bears in the windows to help kids smile on their walks.

“I had seen a post on facebook and it was just an idea and I thought I could do that,” Holmes said. “So I put two bears in my window and I also put hearts up because I sawother people were doing that as well from another Facebook post.”

The Gifford group is also open for people to share other ideas they have.

“I have also seen people saying that they would like do things like put Easter eggs out in their yard and have kids come by and pick some up that have chocolate in them,” Hammond said.

The Gifford group has seen a positive response from the parents and the children.

“All the kids have been looking for things to do, and this gets the kids out to walk around to see other houses as well as do arts and crafts indoors,” Hammond said.

The response Holmes’ post was welcoming as well.

“It has been a positive response and it is nice to  do stuff like this.,” Holmes said. It doesn’t take a lot of time or money but it can brighten people’s day.”

Gifford house window

Zayden (left) and Nolan Hammond paint the window of their home in Gifford last week. More than 20 homes in the area have now joined in.

Walking was encouraged by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker when he issued the stay-in-place order. Hammond said many people in the Gifford area are taking advantage of that.

“We were walking around on Wednesday night, and we saw several other families walking around. Everyone was keeping their distance but still being able to have fun,”  Hammond said.

The Gifford community has been through a disaster before, and Hammond thinks that is why the community comes together in times like this.

“Ever since the tornado we have been a really tight-knit group, so this has been another thing to draw us closer,” Hammond said.

Another thing that was posted in the group was member Brooke Billings made 200 masks that she is going to donate.

There have also been local businesses that reached out and said they are willing to participate and help out with whatever the group is doing. Those businesses are Gifford State Bank, Country Health, Robin’s Body Shop and Jesse Starkey Photography.

rbirch@rantoulpress.com