Some of the rocks painted by the children at Sonoma Street Head Start | Photos submitted by Christy Snyder of NCS


Forget about hunting for eggs this Easter season! Northcoast Children’s Services (NCS) has something much more interesting planned for you – a weeks-long hunt for colorfully painted rocks, spanning across Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

For most of April, the community will have the chance to search for 135 hand-painted rocks across the two counties, spanning as far south as Redway, north to Smith River and east to Willow Creek and Orleans. The lucky folks who find one of these rocks, will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 gas card.

Christy Snyder, enrollment recruitment manager for NCS, told the Outpost that the event is simply meant to serve as a fun way to bring awareness to NCS and the Head Start program, which provides services for income-eligible pregnant women and families with children under five – including food access, healthcare, daycare and preschool. NCS usually conducts recruitment efforts by going door-to-door once per week. But during COVID, that became a lot more difficult and less fun, Snyder said.

“My thought process was ‘How can we get the word out about Northcoast Children’s Services and make it fun?’” Snyder told the Outpost. “And I just thought, ‘everybody loves finding rocks.’ I’ve found a couple with my grandkids and I love it when I find them.”

So, NCS staff and volunteers set to work collecting and decorating the stones. The kids from one of NCS’s preschools – Sonoma Street Head Start in Eureka — even helped-out, painting rocks as a curriculum project, Snyder said.

Starting on Monday, April 4, NCS staff and volunteers will spend the week hiding the rocks, and the hunt will go on for about three weeks. Snyder said that she instructed her helpers to “hide the rocks in plain sight” so that they won’t be too difficult to find, and to place them in areas where families would go – such as parks, outside of grocery stores and on hiking trails, like the Hammond Trail or the Waterfront Trail in Eureka.

Though NCS is designing the hunt to be family-friendly, Snyder said that everyone in the community is welcome to join in the fun. “I don’t care who they are, whether they have kids or not,” she said. If you find one of the hidden rocks, all you have to do is call the number on the back (that is also how you will know that it is an NCS rock, and not someone else’s painted rock) and you will be entered into the raffle. 

Of course, NCS will want to chat with you about the organization – ask you if you have kids, or if you know anyone who has kids. Spreading the word about NCS and the Head Start programs is, after all, kind of the point. And spreading the word about NCS is more crucial than ever, Snyder said, since preschools and childcare centers are struggling to recover from the pandemic.

“COVID has hit childcare and preschools hard,” Snyder said. “Our biggest issue at the agency is staff. We’ve had to close a few centers because we just don’t have staff. So, we do want to get the word out and let people know that there is preschool available. And then, hopefully, we can find more staff, so we can reopen those preschools.”

Stones painted by NCS staff