The going rate for a homemade cupcake in Portland’s Monument Square on Thursday was a smile.

Armed with a spread of nearly 300 cupcakes, signs painted with positive messages, and a determination to honor their late mother, sisters Shelby Groetzinger and Edith Bucknell called out to passersby, encouraging them to indulge in a sweet treat.

“Have a cupcake,” Groetzinger said to a couple walking along Congress Street. “All it costs is a smile.”

The idea behind the giveaway was simple: honor their mother’s birthday and legacy by putting smiles on the faces of strangers.

Their mother, Randee Bucknell of Portland, would have turned 49 on Thursday. An activist and volunteer known for supporting women’s rights, gay rights and the environment, she committed suicide six months ago after a struggle with physical and mental health problems. Her daughters said their mother often stood in Monument Square holding signs in support of her favorite causes.

“We figure we’d spread some positivity in honor of her birthday and (revel) in her activist spirit,” said Groetzinger, of Standish.

Surrounded by a small group of friends and relatives, Groetzinger and Edith Bucknell, of Portland, held signs painted with some of their mother’s favorite sayings. “Always be a little kinder than necessary,” read one. Other signs encouraged people to “share the love” and “have a beautiful day.” Drivers stopped at a nearby traffic light waved and honked as the sisters and their friends handed them cupcakes.

“(Randee) would have loved this,” said Amy Bickford of New Gloucester, who was a close friend of Randee Bucknell. “It’s just sharing the love and bringing smiles to people’s faces.”

Beth Davis of South Portland, Randee Bucknell’s sister, helped her nieces bake the cupcakes. She said it was fitting for the sisters to honor their mother by holding signs and greeting strangers at a busy intersection.

“Their mother was comfortable doing this,” she said. “And it’s nice because people are happy.”

Many who stopped asked about Randee Bucknell as they picked out cupcakes. Cathy Dalon, who was visiting from Boston and celebrating her own birthday, was impressed with the effort to honor Bucknell’s memory.

“People aren’t always nice and this is a nice thing,” she said.

Ricki George, a Portland resident who recently held a “compassion rally” in Monument Square, said the cupcake giveaway was “awesome.”

“The community needs more things like this: an opportunity to show love and kindness with no agenda,” he said.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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Twitter: grahamgillian