Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

If you have walked down any main street in Western North Carolina in the last few months, you have likely spotted a painted rock in your path. The small gesture started  in 2015 when Megan Murphy, of Barnstable, Mass., was in a transitional period in her life, continues to grow as a worldwide mission to spread kindness. The Kindness Rocks movement aims to spread random acts of kindness by painting inspirational messages and images on rocks and leaving them outside for others to find.

All summer, the Franklin Main Street merchants have hosted free monthly rock painting parties downtown to help spread the kindness.

“There are hundreds of social media groups from families, scouts, church groups, and others who are participating,” said Martha Holbrook, owner of Blackberry Market and Mossy Rock on Main Street. “We have been trying to spread the word to businesses in town to join in and participate. We think it is really appropriate for our area.”

Holbrook said the concept is easy and something that fits perfectly with Franklin’s loving, innovative reputation.

“The purpose is simply to brighten someone’s day,’” she said. “Leave the stones in public places like parks, along Main Street, parking lots, and in planters, for someone to find. Invite others to join. Along with making someone’s day another fun part is seeing where the rocks end up. Paint them, hide them, find them, keep them, re-hide them, take them to other places and towns.”

The Franklin NC Rocks Group on Facebook has grown to nearly 1,000 members. Neighboring towns such as Highlands and Bryson City have their own individual Facebook pages as well. The first Kindness Rocks Facebook page in the area, WNC Rocks, serves the western portion of the state and has garnered more than 9,000 members who actively post rocks they have found as well as rocks they hide in towns all over Western North Carolina. The group’s founders, Mary Freitas and Jamie Sue Clonch recently recognized their group’s potential to do good and decided to hold monthly raffles to support local community organizations.

Tammy and her husband came from South Carolina to make a donation for the pantries!

This month, Clonch and Freitas have collected items for a raffle to be held at free painting parties. Items include such things as a 30-lbs. bag of river rocks and art supplies. Tickets for the raffle can be purchased at the paint parties or tickets can be secured by making a donation to the five little pantries in both Franklin and Sylva. Any funds received from the raffle or items such as non-perishable foods or toiletries donated in exchange for tickets, will be donated to the little pantries in Franklin and Sylva.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, the Franklin NC Rocks Facebook group will be partnering with WNC Rocks for a free painting party hosted by Franklin Main Street merchants. The event will be held at the gazebo from 2 to 3:30 p.m. All painting supplies will be provided by the Franklin merchants and rocks (one rock per person) will be provided for painting or bring your own rocks. Donations for the pantry can be made or raffle tickets can be purchased at that time. Also on Sept. 23 in Sylva, Clonch and Freitas will be hosting a free painting party at Poteet Park from 12 to 3 p.m.

This rock was painted in Franklin and found in Myrtle Beach this week. It will next travel to Maryland!

The events have already been promoted on Facebook and led to a South Carolina woman, Tammy Edwards, visiting Sylva to hide dozens of rocks, make a donation for the raffle and donate supplies to the pantry.

“It is most definitely my pleasure,” Edwards said of her chance to “rock” Sylva. “What an awesome town….the love of the people!”