As another college semester begins, so does the stress and anxiety that comes with it. However, Rainbow’s End is working to relieve some of that pressure by spreading hope and positivity with their Letters from Hope mailbox.
Rainbow’s End has been part of downtown Flagstaff for 19 years as of September. It is a shop that houses a wide variety of affordable clothing, jewelry and accessories. The shop is also active in showcasing numerous products made by local artists, such as paintings and woven plant holders. It is owned by NAU alumna Miranda Sweet, who is running for Flagstaff City Council in 2020 and is the community outreach coordinator for the Flagstaff Birth and Women’s Center. Sweet has also been through the Flagstaff leadership program and is actively invested in the community.
Sweet said she wants locals and tourists to treat Rainbow’s End as a community space. People can come in and talk to her about issues they have, both positive and negative, or just about Flagstaff in general, especially now that she’s running for City Council.
If someone has walked by Rainbow’s End recently, they might have noticed an open mailbox sitting in front of the store with a “Letters from Hope” sticker on the top and wondered what it is for. Letters from Hope is a local Facebook project that provides people with a support system and encouragement through an arrangement of mailboxes placed throughout Flagstaff with handwritten letters inside.
Anyone is welcome to participate in this communitywide project. All a participant has to do is send a message to the group on Facebook Messenger with their address. The founders can send back a Letters from Hope sticker for the intended mailbox. These stickers ensure postal workers will not confuse these special mailboxes for real ones.
According to their Facebook page, there are two mailboxes in Flagstaff: the one at Rainbow’s End and one at The Market of Dreams in east Flagstaff.
Sweet said she wanted to be part of the project from the moment she heard about it, because the community and the world are going through tough times, causing angst and anger to be taken out on one another.
“I think the Letters from Hope are trying to foster one another to communicate positively,” Sweet said. “We need something that means it might make someone’s day — those words of encouragement, words of positivity. I do believe this is a time where we really need to stick by one another, help one another and encourage one another.”
The way the mailbox works is simple. A participant goes to the table outside Sweet’s shop, uses the stationery to write a letter and leaves it in the mailbox. If someone doesn’t want to write a letter, they can just take one of the letters in the mailbox for themselves.
Sweet said she’s been receiving a lot of positive feedback since putting the mailbox outside her shop in August. She has also noticed tourists using the mailbox just as much as locals. She wants to continue fostering the constant stream of positivity that has been coming out of this project since it started.
“When I see someone sitting at the table, it warms my heart,” Sweet said.
The Facebook page for Letters from Hope also details various ways an individual can get involved. The page reported that people can donate mailboxes, old or new, by dropping them off at the Market of Dreams. They even offer the opportunity to decorate them.
Minda Simmons is a local artist whose paintings have been showcased in Rainbow’s End. When she first saw the mailbox outside of Sweet’s shop, she said it was a great thing for the store to have and that more love could be spread around the Flagstaff community. Although she hasn’t written or taken a letter from the mailbox yet, she has a general idea of what she would write.
“I would say to this town in particular, slow down,” Simmons said. “Enjoy the beauty that’s around you, and be kind to one another.”
Ashley Atkisson has been an employee at Rainbow’s End for about two years. She said the mailbox is the kind of refreshing change the community needs because there is so much negativity going on in the world today. Atkisson said she writes some of the letters that go into the mailbox, and doesn’t want the idea to be intimidating.
“You never know what your thoughts or words that you put down on paper will do for someone else, and it’s something that’s always worth doing,” Atkisson said.
Overall, Sweet said she wants more NAU students to explore the downtown Flagstaff area and see everything the locally owned shops, galleries and restaurants have to offer, because students don’t always realize it’s there.
“I feel that there’s a shift going back downtown,” Sweet said. “I feel for a couple years maybe we were missing that, but personally, I’m working with NAU quite a bit on getting the message to students.”
Sweet said she wants to encourage everyone to spread love and know the mailbox is there to counterbalance the negativity in the world.