CLINTON — A group of five residents literally lit a path in and out of the village on Saturday, April 18 in tribute to essential workers going to and from their jobs along Brimfield Street during the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
Life-long Clinton resident, Marylisa, (aka. M.L.) Nolan, along with her husband, Joe, friends, Kristen Martin, Martin's son, Spencer Carr and Hilarie Lally-DeNoon, wanted to establish a testimonial that would speak to and in support of essential workers whether they be nurses, doctors, police, fire or grocery store employees.
"I'm not this big overly emotional person, I'm just not,” Nolan said. "But one day I was out running thinking about this situation we're all in, sort of reflecting on this beautiful day that it was, and I thought, wouldn't it be cool to maybe throw out a solar light to recognize the people going to work?"
Nolan explained that in her home, at the top of Brimfield Street, she and her husband, Joe Nolan Jr. have a big picture window where they usually watch traffic go by. People who live in Clinton know Brimfield Street is a cut-through when traveling into New Hartford or Utica, so typically there's a lot of traffic going by. Except now, there isn’t because people are home, sheltering in place.
"The only time we see traffic now is in waves,” she observed.
The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to do it. She said she even got a little lump in her throat thinking about it.
"The idea was to light the path of these essential workers," Nolan said. " We want to let them know…We're with you, you're not alone, and we appreciate you. When I got home, the idea stayed with me. So I text my friends who are motivated people, and they both said they loved the idea."
That's how Kristen Martin got involved.
"It's such a tough time for everyone," Martin said. "I get to work from home — I don't have to go out — but we have all these people who do. Whether it's to take care of the sick people at the hospital, or to make sure we can buy food to feed our families — they're really selfless. There’s also the correction officers, policeman and fireman, and so many, who do so much."
Martin said when she sits at home, it’s natural to question, "What can I do?"
"We just want them to know we are thinking of them and appreciate every single thing they do every day," she added.
DeNoon said she'd be happy to help too.
"I have a printer at home — I'll print the cards," she volunteered.
"During all this I think people want to help," DeNoon said. "I think that's why this project was so special. While it is wonderful having more family time, I'll admit, I told my husband I wish there was something we could do as a family...to do something more (for those at risk), and I told my husband I think this project was sort of serendipitous."
After the preliminary discussion Nolan said her husband Joe, who incidentally is the son of famous Clinton Comet "Indian" Joe Nolan, really got the ball rolling after she shared her idea with him when he said, "Well if you want to do it — lets just go and do it."
Joe told his wife to text DeNoon and tell her the lights would be provided and to reflect that in the notes, and off they went to the Dollar Tree store.
"We put on our masks and went to store where there were literally stacks of solar lights," Nolan said. "Prior to going over, my husband and I counted the houses on our street. There's 57, so we bought 57 lights. My husband even bought little clear plastic bags because the weather called for rain, and we went home and bagged up all the lights."
The next day, early Sunday morning, Nolan and her husband gathered the bagged up lights, along with the notes DeNoon brought over explaining their idea, and asking people to "help bring the idea to fruition."
Nolan and her husband placed the lights next to each mailbox on the street and within a day, every person had removed the light from the bag, read the note, and placed the light in the ground next to their mailbox.
The following day the three ladies were chatting via group text saying how happy they were and that they should get pictures of it, when Martin came up with a better idea.
"Kristen has a son named Spencer Carr who's home from college," Nolan said "He's a very talented videographer and he made a video set to music detailing the whole project."
"I took a documentary film class at St. Lawrence University," Carr explained. "I shot it with my iPhone and used iMovie to edit it."
DeNoon selected the music, a single off the "Heard it in a Past Life” CD, "Light On," by singer Maggie Rodgers.
DeNoon said that really moved her.
"One of the greatest things about doing this project was I did love the vision of a nurse or a doctor having to go to a shift at night and see what they have to see, which by all accounts is not pretty,” DeNoon said. "I just loved the idea they were going to have this stretch of road that was all lit up set to music just for them. We think it's a nice sign for people who literally have to go into battle every day. We hope it will give people a smile. I think we could use some more of that right now."
Nolan said they also had essential workers send tons of pictures showing them at their jobs after being asked to do so on Facebook.
"In a few hours, it went from a few friends sending us pictures to literally people off the street we never met before,” she said.
The other shots in the video were taken by Martin and her husband — signs around town thanking essential workers.
Nolan said her husband, Joe, an essential worker himself, coined the phrase, "Unite with Light." The entire project was completed in 24 hours, Nolan added.
"Once the video was done it got picked up by people on Facebook and I was overwhelmed," Nolan explained. "All of us have received a lot of compliments on Facebook threads."
But what really blew Nolan away was the physical letters she received at her home, she said.
Martin said she hopes the one thing that will come out of this is it will inspire other people to do something to recognize all those people who are sacrificing themselves for others.
Finally, Nolan summed it up for everyone involved in the project.
"We appreciate them, the workers, so much," she said. "But we don't consider ourselves hero's, we consider ourselves people who celebrate heroes."