HALLSVILLE — A new local community group handed out more than 200 donated gift cards, water bottles and goodies to random people Monday afternoon in Hallsville.

Together Hallsville, a service group started in mid-July, made random acts of kindness a mission, surprising residents with gift cards to local restaurants and shops.

Co-founder Johnny Horne said he was amazed by the donation response.

“It was overwhelming,” he said.

Some businesses gave him $5 gift cards while others gave free hamburger or ice cream cards, water bottles with gift cards attached, T-shirts and hats. As of Monday afternoon, he surpassed his 100 gift card estimate with more than 225 cards.

“Let’s put smiles on people’s faces,” Horne said. “We need less negativity in the world.”

About 20 volunteers, taking COVID-19 precautions and wearing face masks, gathered into six groups to canvass the town.

Madi Horne, 20, and her boyfriend, Dylan Russell, joined a group with a few others to hand out cards and items.

“It is so hot out,” Madi Horne said, noting that she wanted to make sure outdoor workers were taken care of. “I really think they need it today.”

The volunteers found people at the local laundromat, city park, grocery store, gas stations and other areas across Hallsville.

Kailey Hall, 31, was at the park with her children when she received gift cards.

”I didn’t know what they wanted when they came up, but I was very surprised,” she said. “It’s nice to see people out doing something positive.”

Hall thanked the volunteers for their generosity.

Together Hallsville’s Facebook group had more than 500 members as of Monday afternoon. The group was created July 15, formed with a similar mission to another newly created organization — One Love Longview, which seeks to help Longview residents.“This has grown into something that we didn’t expect,” Madi Horne said of Together Hallsville. “Seeing people join in has made me more committed. It’s been such a big blessing.”The group references a Bible verse, John 13:34, as the basis for its commitment to random acts of kindness. The verse, summed up, says, “Love one another as God loves you.”

“Pastor Mark Moore, at First Baptist (Church-Hallsville), gave the verse to me,” Johnny Horne said. “It’s such a good reminder that you should love one another, love on your neighbors.”

The group has four rules posted on its Facebook page, drawing from the Scripture: be kind, spread love, promote unity and work together. On Aug. 9, the group will give out 500 free hamburger meals on the go from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hallsville Outreach Center at Hallsville City Park. Guests will be able to socially distance, getting their meals without having to leave the car.The group also is organizing a school supply drive so those in need can pick up supplies along with the hamburger meal.