Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Sign of the Times: Local Mom and her Son Spread Cheer with Homemade Signs

It all started out as a fundraiser for her son’s fifth grade class. Now, the signs are everywhere.

You’ve seen them brightening front yards on Coronado’s streets and lanes. Popping out of bushes, or leaning against palm trees. But the overall message is the same: No matter who you are or where you’re from, you are welcome.

Kirby Barnum, who’s been building and selling the signs with her son Boone for the last seven years, says the warm message is most-needed.

“We’re putting something positive out into the universe,” said Barnum. “We have to do that. Now more than ever.”

Barnum, who lives with her son—now, a Coronado High School senior—on the corner of A and Fourth Street, never thought the signs would actually grow into a business. After all, it was a school project.

“I was the room parent,” explained Barnum. “We had to do a project with the fifth graders and make something to get auctioned off. I saw a sign like this in front of a church, and knew we could take this idea and make it our own. So we did it, and the kids actually wrote the words.”

So Barnum, along with the kids, built and painted five different signs. They sold them all.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Barnum. “Then I said ‘hey, wait a minute…I didn’t get a sign!’”

Barnum’s aging mother, who lives across the street from her, wanted one too. And so, the sign business was born. But the signs, as well as the process, have totally morphed, according to Barnum.

“First, it was like, get the big pieces of wood, then cut them and paint them,” said Barnum. “Then, it was like, no, maybe get the piece of wood and paint the whole piece, then cut the wood, that’s faster.”

Pieces of painted cut wood at Barnum’s house, waiting to be made into signs.
The specs for making the signs.

Now, Boone is a busy senior at CHS, swimming and playing water polo. But he makes time for the signs. And it’s a good thing, because Barnum says she could never make the signs by herself.

It’s a labor of love.

Boone with the strips of painted wood.

Barnum has a list of everyone who’s purchased a sign, in Coronado and in greater San Diego. They’ve even shipped the signs across the country, as far away as Maryland. She estimates that two dozen families have purchased the signs in Coronado.

The best part? The signs are totally customizable. While most have the words “Welcome, All People, All Cultures, All Genders, All Beliefs,” some swap out the words for others that are more meaningful to them.  One woman, who boards dogs, used the phrase “All Paws.” Others used “All Sizes,” and “Mahalo” and one even used “All Y’all.”

Buyers can customize the signs.

“I don’t tell people what they have to write on them,” said Barnum. “I let them tell me.”

And Barnum says that when people see something negative, whether happening in the community or on the news, there’s an uptick of sign sales.

“It seems like [seeing something negative] encourages people to do something loving and peaceful and positive,” said Barnum. “That’s why they really gravitate toward the signs.”

Bill Seager and his wife Jean, who bought a sign, say it sends an important message.

“We just want people to know that Coronado in general, and our house in particular, is a welcoming place for everyone,” said Seager.

Barnum says she saw this positivity at work just a few weeks ago. When she was helping her mother get into her van, she saw a young adult who identified as transgender walk by her house.

“They said to me, ‘I just want you to know that I walk by your sign every day after I get off the bus, and it makes me realize that Coronado is a loving place,’” said Barnum.

Barnum says that’s the point. That’s the reason why she makes the signs.

“This isn’t about politics,” she said. “This is about love and inclusion.”

Boone with his grandmother, delivering a sign.

Signs are available to purchase for $200 and can be customized. Barnum can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kirby.barnum or by calling/texting 619-933-4409. Barnum is also looking for some help from the community, she needs help setting up her new Silhouette Machine for the sign letters.


Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuylhttp://islandgirlblog.com/
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

More Local News