Talk of the Town - May 2020
- Story by Lisa Monti, photos by Elise Epperson Deano
Elise Epperson Deano has fond memories of coming to Henderson Point as a child and finding seashells and other little treasures in the sand. She wanted to bring some of that magic to local beaches as soon as they reopened after the closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, but between storms and the BP oil spill, there aren’t many natural shells on the beach these days.
What would happen if she planted them?
As the quarantine restrictions were beginning, Deano ordered a big box of seashells to spread around the beach. Seeding the beach with shells worked as a fun incentive for her family to get some exercise outdoors.
Her goal was “not just to welcome people back to the beaches, but to make it magical,” she said. The idea was “to give families some good memories to replace the stressful ones as we gently ease out of this quarantine.”
Deano realized she’d be able to cover more miles of beach if she had help, so she put a box filled with shells on the porch of her Old Town home and invited friends on social media to spread them on the sand whenever they walked on the beach. She thought it would be a fun way to share some love “and remind people how great this community is.”
It worked, big time.
“We’ve already put out maybe 1,500 shells. Every time I come home, I look in the box and have to refill it.” On Mother’s Day, Deano alone put out more than 100 shells and two dozen starfish.
Elise enjoys hearing stories about the lucky finders from her fellow shell distributors. Children and adults who come across starfish and other unexpected treasures in the sand react with delight. Some helpers have even taken videos of kids finding shells; they’re posted on the new Facebook page Elise named Sowing Seashells and Smiles. Families who have found the shells and starfish also are posting their beach experiences on the page.
Deano is thrilled that her idea has caught on so quickly and has been such a hit with beachgoers, but she says she underestimated the joy the effort has brought to the “shell soldiers” who are helping to spread the shells.
“The people who find them are excited but the people putting the shells out may be having even more fun.”
Volunteer Ann Weaver posted that “someone commented that they didn’t realize we had starfish here. Let the scientists start scrambling! Wait ‘til they start finding the shark teeth!”
Deano said she’ll keep supplying the starfish and shells for the foreseeable future. “We’ll keep doing it as long as people are picking them up.”
If you want to join the volunteers, send Deano a message on Facebook.