SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – It all started in California, just before the lockdown phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott Sturm had an idea, then went shopping online.

“I was like ‘Oh there’s some big blue plastic letters that I can buy’ and I can just throw a message up every week or every couple of weeks,” Sturm said.

Sturm says he wanted to put messages in his yard to lift people’s spirits during the pandemic.

“It started off with ‘Smile’ in March of 2020, five letters,” Sturm said. “It’s gotten as long as I think 30 to 33 characters in length, which goes from the sidewalk all the way up to the curb a long stretch and 126 different sayings over that two-and-a-half-year period.”

However, as we enter 2023, Sturm says it’s time to move on.

“That was just my thought when this all started, was just to have this kind of run through COVID.” Sturm said “Well, of course, it kept going. I kept getting encouraged by people. I kept coming up with little phrases. I wanted to put it out there. So ultimately like, okay, we’re going to call it quits at the end of 2022.”

Neighbors like Diana Hicks say Sturm’s effort means a lot.

“I was thinking, this is what we need. Everybody’s getting down and grouchy, and in the midst of COVID, I just thought maybe if this could boost somebody’s day because it sure did mine.” Hicks said.

“Just the outpouring of gratitude and support, encouragement, appreciation is pretty humbling,” Sturm said.

KOLR10 spoke to another fan of the messages, Springfield Mayor Ken McClure.

“Well, the signs could not have come at a better time,” McClure said. “We were in the middle of the pandemic, and everyone was trying to face difficulties that we’ve never before encountered. And then to see those signs and I do remember that first one that said smile and that really did bring a smile on my face.”

Mayor McClure says he had not met Strum, so we introduced the two. You can view that introduction in the video at the top of this story.