The Red Envelope Project: Spreading Love & Gratitude


By Lisa Hartsgrove

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get—only with what you are expecting to give—which is everything. ― Katherine Hepburn

The other night in class, I drew a big heart on the whiteboard and asked my teen students to name some of the things they love. As I began filling in the heart with their responses, my students grew more and more excited―they loved so many things! From “drawing” to “pets” to “walks on the beach at sunset,” it wasn’t long before I passed the marker into their hands. They formed a line at the board, every one of them having something to add. Their words multiplied until they outgrew the heart, and then they made more hearts to fill with answers.

These are the kinds of moments I love most at Project Write Now―witnessing the connections that happen when people come together to write. In my class, I have students from Fair Haven, Ocean Township, West Long Branch, Middletown, Rumson, Port Monmouth, Shrewsbury, and Morganville. What brings them together each week are the stories they share and the power of their words, which create friendships that have deepened beyond our classroom walls.

The Red Envelope Project was inspired by moments like this and our desire to bring even more people together through a community project that is all about spreading love and gratitude. During the month of February, Project Write Now team members handed red envelopes all over Red Bank, N.J., with a piece of paper inside, prompting receivers to add their line of “I love ____” and pass it on. When the page was full, the self-addressed, stamped red envelope was to be sent back to the studio.

For the past few weeks, red envelopes have been flooding into the studio.

“I love the air, the fire, the water, the earth, nature, and spirit.” – Ku-uipo, Long Branch (by way of Hawaii).

“I love sitting in a quiet place with my pets.” – Alyssa, Eatontown.

“I love visiting new places.” – Kerry, Red Bank.

We have taken all of these lines and woven them into one big epic poem that will be read by all who attend our event this Thursday, March 2, at 7 p.m. at Lambs & Wolves in Red Bank. We are so grateful to Glen Goldbaum and his staff for opening up their beautiful studio and joining us in this collective community project. The evening is also an open mic opportunity, and we will be creating an art piece together that will be on display at the event and then housed at our Project Write Now studio.

It is PWN’s mission to spread positivity, to bring the community together, to allow everyone to be heard, and to unite through the power of words. We have witnessed firsthand so many lives transformed through this act of storytelling, and we want to spread this power as far and wide as it can go.

We hope you will join us!

Lisa Hartsgrove is the Program Coordinator and Writing Instructor for Project Write Now.