If you happen upon a stone that makes you smile while you're out in Gainesville, you’ve probably found a “Happy Rock.”
These brightly hand-painted pieces of earth were placed in town by members of Randy and Friends, a local nonprofit that helps those with special needs better serve their community.
Randy Owens — who founded the organization with his mom, Marty, in 2012 — said the group of around six regularly look for ways to not only get involved in Hall County, but show their neighbors that they care.
“We just want to share inspiration to the rest of the community,” Randy said.
These painted stones can be found around the square, Frances Meadows Aquatic Center, Hall County Courthouse and other nooks and crannies in the city.
Marty encourages those who see these rocks to place them in another location to continue spreading the positivity.
“We thought, what a great way we could make this community happier,” she said. “They are a quiet group, but you won’t find a better example of loving others.”
Randy and Friends is headquartered on Marty’s 30-acre farm off Highland Road, north of Lake Lanier. Marty said the active members of the group spend the first portion of their days taking morning lessons at Lakewood Baptist Church, then go to the farm for the afternoon. She explained that the six members’ daily schedules vary because the nonprofit wants to develop the skills of each individual.
The organization assists those with special needs with furthering their education, finding and training for employment and becoming well-rounded members of their community.
Randy said members are also taken out to local restaurants and stores to learn about money management and undergo other types of training to instill independence. For those who may have an issue with traditional employment, Marty said the nonprofit will hire them to help run the farm and perform administrative duties.
Randy, who lives with a disability, said he strives to help others going through similar circumstances find their path. At 2 years old, Randy was hit by a car, which resulted in a traumatic brain injury and paralyzation.
“I want to reach out to other disabled in the community, and help them feel like they’re just the same as other people,” Randy said.
Like Randy, Devon Owens, a member of the nonprofit, experienced a horrific accident that changed his life. Devon said he crashed his four-wheeler around five years ago and suffered from a major head injury. Although he doesn’t function the same way he used to, Devon said he has found support and happiness through Randy and Friends.
“Randy and Marty, they’re real good people,” Devon said. “I just like it because it’s small and homegrown.
For more information about Randy and Friends, visit randyandfriends.org or call 678-617-5527.