“Most people choose hobbies that make them smile. Woodlyn residents Amanda McGuigan and her husband Scott Andersen enjoy a hobby that not only makes them smile, but makes countless other residents of Delaware County smile, too.
McGuigan and Andersen are the founders and operators of “Keep Delco Smiling,” a local nonprofit organization which has the sole purpose of making people smile through random kindnesses and thoughtful acts.
McGuigan began Keep Delco Smiling in 2019. She anonymously tried to bring more positivity and cheerfulness into the community by leaving little gifts with short notes around town so people would find them and get a lift during their day and perhaps inspire them to pass along the kindness. At the time, the Second Class Petty Officer, who served in the Navy from 2002-08, says that she did not imagine it turning into anything significant.
“Then suddenly it was 2020,” McGuigan explained, “And we were dealing with a pandemic and an upcoming presidential election. I was disheartened by all of the increased hatred and contempt that people seemed to be showing for each other, especially on social media. We decided it was time to do more with Keep Delco Smiling, so we turned it from a sporadic hobby to a full-time pursuit.”
McGuigan and Andersen threw themselves into the nonprofit’s mission. They used their own money and accepted random donations to make people smile on a daily basis.
Their first major Keep Delco Smiling event was a complimentary Easter egg hunt for the residents of Ridley Township’s Derwood Park neighborhood. Over fifty children showed up, smiling, and the husband-wife smile team were hooked. They haven’t stopped creating smiles ever since.
Last week, they offered a totally free bowling event on Sunday afternoon at MacDade Bowl to Delaware County residents, with no strings attached. About 60 people showed up and were treated to two free games of bowling, shoes, snacks and drinks. Kindness generates more kindness, they explained. Bob Pescatore, owner of MacDade Bowl and a member of the Chester Pike Rotary told the Rotary about the event and the Rotarians made a generous monetary donation to support the event. America’s Pie in Tinicum donated 14 pizza pies for the occasion, and Delco Spiderman made a surprise guest appearance to bring even more smiles to the bowlers.
This week, the team stopped by the family movie night in Prospect Park Square and surprised attendees by handing out complimentary snacks and bottles of cold water. They’ve previously stood along State Street in Media and handed out coupons for free cups of coffee at Ocean City Coffee Company and in the parking lot of Lidl in Ridley Township, handing out flowers and various gift cards.
McGuigan said that people at first are often confused. However, once they realize the smile team wants nothing from them, they end up grinning and feeling good about the little tokens of kindness.
“Often people will tell us, ‘This means a lot, I was having a really bad day,” McGuigan shared. “Our organization is not need-based or only for those with low income. We don’t care about people’s financial situations, their backgrounds or their age. We want to make everyone happy.”
McGuigan and Anderson said the gift cards and coupons that they hand out not only instill happiness in people, but also draw in new customers to local businesses.
The couple also holds pop-up kindness events on the spur of the moment. They held a pop-up rock painting pizza party at Pinocchio’s in Media and then encouraged participants to leave their brightly painted rocks with inspirational messages around town to cheer up their finders.
Recently, they stood on MacDade Boulevard in front of The Hot Dog Stand for two hours, holding a large sign that said “free hot dogs.”
“We told those that stopped to go over and order whatever they wanted,” Andersen recalled. “At first they were stunned, but then they were happy!”
Once, during the pandemic, the couple went to a local McDonald’s restaurant and gifted each worker there with a few dollars, accompanied by a card that thanked them for being essential workers.
“People are always doing nice things for doctors and nurses and other essential workers, but we felt the employees at McDonald’s are undervalued and we wanted to show them that they are appreciated,” Andersen stated.
McGuigan said her favorite experience, so far, was when they rode around through Chester with Big Var’s Water Ice Truck, offering free water ice to all those they encountered. The team traveled from Wesley House to the William Penn Homes, handing out the cold treats.
“The children were literally screaming,” recounted McGuigan. “They were just so excited to get all the free water ice that they wanted. We had a really fun time spreading happiness in this simple way.”…