North Jersey community decorates town with painted flag wood pallets
There’s no need for Fourth of July fireworks in Montville. Patriotic colors have already exploded across the township from Towaco to Pine Brook as America’s big holiday weekend nears.
“Community Patriotic Pallet Painting” has taken off over the past two months in Montville, organized by residents on Facebook. With support from the local business community, hundreds of residents have taken donated paint to transform used, bare-wood shipping pallets into red-white-and-blue U.S. flags and other flag-inspired artworks.
“They’re everywhere,” said Susan Davieau Patti, one of the organizers. “I don’t even know how many hundreds.”
“I know I counted at least 350,” said Roberta Ginsberg, who still has not met Patti in person, but teamed with her on social media to organize the grassroots community project into a proud patriotic expression that has spread to several border towns.
“It’s such a nice thing to see when you drive around town,” Mayor Frank Cooney said. “It’s a wonderful way to show the patriotism in town and get so many people involved.”
A string of posts in the “Montville (NJ) Moms” Facebook group got the ball rolling in early May.
“Someone had seen one of the flag pallets somewhere and wanted to know where he could buy one,” Ginsberg said. “I had the same idea last year for a community project, but it didn’t take off. So I said I would help. I didn’t know Susan, but she said she would help, too. It took off from there.”
While Ginsberg worked with other eager volunteers to organize the rapidly-growing project, Patti got in her truck and got busy soliciting the raw materials they would need and warehousing them on her property.
“We didn’t want to just post her address, so people would go through me on Facebook,” Ginsberg said. “If they expressed an interest, we would tell them where to go.”
Art program in danger:COVID, cancer threaten the future of Gateway to the Arts program
Olympus Minerals in neighboring Fairfield was an early supporter, offering a nearly unlimited supply of pallets that Patti would load in her pickup truck and haul to her home.
“He gave me truckloads,” Patti said.
She was also able to get the local Home Depot to donate paint, and a local Chinese restaurant to donate food containers to portion out the paint.
“We always donate to community groups when they come in and ask,” Home Depot Assistant Manager Carlos Casaretto said. “I’ve seen photos of what they are trying to do and it looks amazing.”
As the idea spread, they found ways to help neighbors who did not have the time or artistic ability to do a good job. Donna Aslanian solved that problem by offering her talents to paint and deliver pallets to anyone willing to make a donation to the volunteer Montville Pet Parents group dedicated to helping homeless animals.
Patti set up shop on her property, doling out pallets, containers of paint and instructing volunteers to “use their paintbrushes and creativity.”
“I did one with poppies instead of stars for the American Legion while they were collecting donations,” Patti said.
“People did them with their children, with their spouses, for their neighbors,” Ginsberg said. “It was all about community pride, and it was Pride Month, so some people took it to that level. Some used handprints of their kids instead of stars.”
Some local businesses helped out by donating pallets and other materials. Many more businesses joined the community expression by displaying painted pallets on their properties.
“Our building is right next to town hall, so we were stacking pallets from our job sites under an overhang so anybody who needed one could grab one,” said John Hogan of Blue Nail Roofing and Siding. “We put one out in front of our building. It feels like the community was taken away from us the last year and a half. They canceled the Fourth of July event because of COVID. But you drive around and see the pallets, you get a sense of pride. You get a sense the town is still here and we’ll bounce back.”
“It feels good to see them,” said state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, a longtime Montville resident. “It’s an expression of people’s devotion, love and fidelity for their country.”
“It really just took off,” said Robin Brickman, another volunteer for the cause. “I think it was just the right thing at the right time.”
There’s no expiration date to the project and many, including Ginsberg, said they will leave them out beyond the holidays. A Facebook page was started for people to post photos of their pallets.
“Why would I take it down?” she said. “It represents pride in our country and pride in our community.”
Painted pallet pride is spreading to neighboring towns.
“They are showing up in Fairfield, Boonton, Lake Hiawatha,” Ginsberg said.
“I’ve delivered them as far as Butler,” Patti said. “It’s been crazy.”
“The thing about it is, it all started here with a group of volunteers,” Ginsberg said.
William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.