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Spreading kindness along Milwaukee's Riverwalk

Posted at 4:10 PM, Apr 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 18:47:34-04

MILWAUKEE — Sometimes it's the smallest gesture or simplest sign that can spread kindness farther than we could ever imagine. That's why a Riverwest woman made it her mission to make sure everyone felt loved and comforted during a chaotic time.

Jill Capicchioni constructed what look like bird boxes with one side missing. Inside she places inspiration quotes by Maya Angelou, poems by Langston Hughes, and more inspirational messages. She nailed them to various posts and fences around Milwaukee's East Side. She calls these boxes Wordhousemke.

"Sometimes when you walk, your by yourself with your own thoughts, and sometimes those thoughts are not good thoughts, you know. That negative talk that (is) sometimes in your head, and so I wanted to combat that with more positive words," Capicchioni, who lives in Riverwest, said.

If you stroll down the Riverwalk and keep your eyes opened, you will likely see one. There is a cluster of them between Stubby's Restaurant and Bar and Lakefront Brewery.

A Wordhouse that people have added buttons and another quote too.

Cappichioni installed the first box in November 2020. Since then, she has made 14 more. That wasn't done all by herself, though. She wanted to incorporate the community, so she reached out to local artists and friends to help build and decorate each box. People have even begun to add their own knick-knacks, statues, buttons, and inspiration poems to the boxes. That was always the goal for these boxes - to be a collaborative effort.

These boxes don't have specific addresses but you can find them nearby: Cafe Corazon across from the ice rink, along the Beerline trail between Concordia and Pierce Streets, the northwest part of Kaddish Park on a tree by the sidewalk, behind the Quaker meeting place in the woods by the river, at Vine and Palmer streets, along the Milwaukee River near Stubby's, on the fence by Lakefront Brewery overlooking the river, and by the stairs near Lakefront Brewery and the Marsupial Bridge, just to name a few.

Jill Cappichioni
Jill Cappichioni installed the first Wordhousemke in November 2020, and since then she has made 14 more.

Sure there is a longitude and latitude you could use to find the exact location of these boxes. However, it's more so about casually finding them along your walk. Or, it's about the journey to find all of them.

This isn't the only thing that Capicchioni does for the community. She has also created 'garden starter kits' and places them in front of her house for anyone to claim. Each kit is made out of old food take-out containers. They are filled with various types of herbs, flowers, and vegetables and seed pellets to help them grow.

"I think growing your own food is very rewarding, and I think teaching that skill to others is a great way to do it," she said.

A Wordhouse box along the Riverwalk near Stubby's.

Plus, it's all free. She wanted to make gardening something everyone and anyone could do.

"But I thought it would be cool to just in a non-commitment kind of way without having to fork out any money be able to give it a try," she said.

Whether it's a poem or flower seeds, it's all about inspiring people in new and unexpected ways.

In the future, Cappichioni hopes to combine the Wordhouses and garden kit ideas together by engaging with local community gardens. You can get in touch with her via her instagram: Wordhousemke.

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