Maintaining Neighboring

The “Pep Toc” We All Need Now

If you dial 707-873-7862 then press a number as directed, you will receive some of the cutest and best sage advice ever uttered out of the mouths of babes. Peptoc hotline program launched in February and was created by two teachers, Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss, from West Side Elementary School in Healdsburg, Calif. The project got its name from Martin’s 6-year-old son, who pronounced it as “pep talk” but spelled it as “pep toc” with his block letters.

Inspired by her students’ positive attitudes despite their living in a world threatened by a pandemic, wildfires, gun violence, the current situation in Ukraine, etc., art teacher Martin spoke to her class about an idea she had for them to do for a project. In essence, to give encouragement and cheer up anyone in need of nourishment for their soul. The children quickly drew upon their own experiences when feeling frustrated, shared advice they personally received, or came up with guidance on their own for this “social practice” art movement.

Callers can dial this number where kids’ voices will prompt them to a menu of choices:

  • Mad or frustrated, press 1
  • Looking for an encouraging mantra or life advice, press 2
  • Need a pep talk from kindergarteners, yes kindergarteners, press 3
  • Just want to hear the infectious giggles of a child, press 4
  • For encouragement in Spanish, press 5

Some noteworthy advice includes:

“If you’re frustrated, you can always go to your bedroom, punch a pillow or cry on it and just go scream outside.” It does beat punching an actual person and risk getting arrested.

“If you’re nervous, go get your wallet and spend it on ice cream and shoes.” Hear that, ladies?

“Don’t give up -power through” and “The world is a better place with you in it” are great reminders if feeling discouraged or when joy is in short supply.

Much to the delight of the school’s staff and its students, the hotline gets flooded with thousands of calls each day. Martin stated that patients and staff at Johns Hopkins Medical Center have been calling the hotline on a regular basis. One female patient dealing with cancer calls during her treatment sessions. An administrator of an Iowa elder care facility, where the average patient is over age 90, called one day to thank the kids. The administrator said she plays the messages for everyone at the facility adding, “I haven’t heard laughter like that from them in years.”

Peptoc’s actual hotline number is 707-998-8410 but was temporarily changed to 707-873-7862 on March 12 due to technical issues and messages will be updated in the coming months. West Side Elementary is among the list of many schools struggling with diminishing arts programs due to massive budget cuts. However, the hotline is funded by donations and surplus funds go towards the school’s enrichment programs.

Testimonies from the dozens of callers emotionally moved by these messages are uplifting in and of themselves. Thankfully, these little ones are reminding adults, who often forget, how kindness and positive thinking can go a long way. It looks like the kids are indeed alright.

-Sharon Oliver

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash


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