By Gene Axton - [email protected]

BeKindScranton and BeKindWilkes-Barre hand out free hugs July 23

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Four-year-old Dresden Gottshall of Swoyersville paints a rock for an upcoming benefit organized by BeKindWilkes-Barre. On Saturday, July 23 the rocks will be placed around the city as a random act of kindness.
Pete G. Wilcox | Times Leader
Volunteers attended a July 17 rock painting party at Kirby Park to paint rocks that will be placed around the city during July 23’s BeKindWilkes-Barre event.
Pete G. Wilcox | Times Leader

When Scranton resident Monica Simon turned 26 in December, she shared her birthday gift with the rest of the city.

“A friend had asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and my response to her was that I wanted to go downtown and do random acts of kindness,” Simon said. “That night we wrote positive quotes with chalk throughout the Courthouse Square, we put positive notes on cars, sticky notes with positive messages on bathroom mirrors, left notes in library books. We’ve done things like that probably every two months or so.”

On July 23, Simon will be joined by a number of others in committing large-scale acts of kindness during BeKindScranton. The event was organized to give Electric City residents an inexpensive way to do something positive for their community; volunteers will write positive messages in chalk, hold inspirational signs on the side of roadways and leave encouraging messages around the city.

The event was inspired in part by its organizer’s own struggle with negativity. Two years ago, Simon entered treatment for what she referred to as ‘suicidal tendencies.’ When she decided to celebrate two years of working on herself, she turned her milestone into a way to reach others.

“I worked really hard to get my feet back on the ground and live a more positive life and I’ve learned one of the ways I keep myself happy is to try to do kind things for others,” Simon said. “In celebration of it being two years since that very dark time I thought it would be great for me to plan an event around what has made me feel inspired since then.”

BeKindScranton volunteers will meet at Courthouse Square 10 a.m. July 23 and organize into teams like sign holders, note hangers and hug givers. Walk-ups are welcome, but for more information, visit the ‘BeKindScranton 2016’ event page on Facebook. Simon organized and promoted the event via social media; that’s how 33-year-old Wilkes-Barre resident Angela Greco got word of it and contacted Simon about organizing a sister event in the Diamond City.

“She basically let me spearhead the Wilkes-Barre event on my end, but I’ve been taking a lot of inspiration and cues from her,” Greco said. “I think sometimes Scranton is awesome, but we don’t always have these great community events happening in Wilkes-Barre; at least they don’t get a lot of attention. I just thought it’d be a great way to do something positive in our city and I think it would be exponentially more powerful to tackle both cities in one day. To unite as sister cities in kindness and positivity.”

Greco said Wilkes-Barre residents can expect to be privy to the same random acts of kindness as their northern neighbors, including signs, notes, chalk messages, painted rocks and hugs. She also plans to include ‘pay it forward post-its’ to inspire further kindnesses.

“It’s something that gives a little bit of inspiration, but on the back inspires the person who receives it to maybe inspire another person or maybe be kind to someone that day, whether it be in Wilkes-Barre or elsewhere in Pennsylvania.”

BeKindWilkes-Barre also accepts walk-ups, but more information about teams and activities can be found at the ‘BeKindWilkes-Barre 2016’ event page on Facebook. Volunteers will meet at Kirby Park 10 a.m. July 23 before walking into the city with their respective teams at noon.

Simon said she bettered herself by doing for others; on July 23, her event has organized volunteers in two cities to do the same.

“I want people to understand that it’s not about what they have, but just what they can do for others, and a lot of times it’s something very simple and not expensive at all,” Simon said. “Hopefully it could brighten somebody else’s day if they’re having a hard time, if they’re going through anything.”

Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts

Volunteers to commit random acts of kindness throughout the Northeastern Pennsylvania cities

By Gene Axton

[email protected]

Four-year-old Dresden Gottshall of Swoyersville paints a rock for an upcoming benefit organized by BeKindWilkes-Barre. On Saturday, July 23 the rocks will be placed around the city as a random act of kindness.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_rockpainting01.jpgFour-year-old Dresden Gottshall of Swoyersville paints a rock for an upcoming benefit organized by BeKindWilkes-Barre. On Saturday, July 23 the rocks will be placed around the city as a random act of kindness. Pete G. Wilcox | Times Leader

Volunteers attended a July 17 rock painting party at Kirby Park to paint rocks that will be placed around the city during July 23’s BeKindWilkes-Barre event.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_rockpainting02.jpgVolunteers attended a July 17 rock painting party at Kirby Park to paint rocks that will be placed around the city during July 23’s BeKindWilkes-Barre event. Pete G. Wilcox | Times Leader
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Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts