Stonington First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough with her husband and children taking part in the first daily bell ringing. The bell ringing will continue every night during the social distancing efforts as a means of providing hope and community unity. Courtesy Danielle Chesebrough

STONINGTON — If you turn down the television, turn off the radio and pause your devices at 8 p.m. every night, you just might hear the sound of bells.

Locked-down residents across the town are still finding a way to come together every night as hundreds of residents are ringing bells at the same exact time in a show of solidarity.

First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough said the initiative is designed to promote unity and community, as well as providing hope as residents cope with the challenges of home confinement and social distancing.

“It’s a concept we developed based on something they are doing in another Connecticut town,” Chesebrough said. “The idea isn’t just to lift spirits either, but to show support for those who are homebound right now and even more isolated than you or I.”

Chesebrough said by ringing bells together, the sound will carry through neighborhoods. For those who are unable to leave their homes, the simple sound of the bells can help them feel not so alone, she said.

The bell ringing began over the weekend and is expected to continue every night while the state is under mandated restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Chesebrough, who in her previous job had helped organize an annual event at stock exchanges around the world, said many would use the bells at the opening and close of each day to raise awareness. She said she hopes those throughout the community will embrace the message.

In posts on the Town of Stonington Facebook page, people have begun sharing their stories and pictures of themselves or their family members taking part. Even the churches are joining in on the fun — Old Mystic United Methodist Church even shared a video of a man making the climb to the bell tower to ring the bells on Sunday night.

Chesebrough had shared the idea last week and immediately found support in the community, including from Stonington Human Services Director Leanne DiGangi Theodore. Theodore said the message resonates with her department, which services a number of elderly and homebound residents in the community, and encouraged everyone in the community to join in.

“We come from a region which prides itself on the motto ‘two towns, one community.’ This type of social distancing we are participating in is unprecedented,” Theodore said. “For many in town, to be able to hear your neighbors every night helps to decrease the feelings of fear and isolation that naturally come with this.”

Residents who participate are encouraged to share their pictures and videos on social media using the hashtag #SupportStonington and using the tag @Town of Stonington when sharing on Facebook or Instagram.

Don’t have a bell? Theodore and Chesebrough said residents have considered other options as well, including phone apps or other creative solutions such as using a glass. The event lasts just one minute and can be a lot of fun to take part in.

“I expect this will only continue to catch on,” Theodore said. “It’s such a simple act, and yet it can mean so much to so many people.”

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