NEWBURYPORT – Dozens of surprised motorists received free coffee, bagels and other treats Monday morning at the Route 1 traffic circle Dunkin' Donuts, and they have an online pay-it-forward campaign to thank. 

Last week, the Facebook group Nice People of Newburyport began an online fundraising campaign at gofundme.com to make Monday morning a little brighter. By the time the sun came up Monday, 23 people had contributed $250. 

"Two-hundred and fifty bucks is a lot of coffee and doughnuts," fundraiser organizer Emily Cowan said. 

Cowan said the pay-it-forward endeavor was a way of marking a milestone for the Facebook group, which recorded its 500th member in only two weeks. 

Pay-it-forward campaigns aren't anything new at coffee drive-thrus. 

In 2014, more than 200 people received free coffee at Heav’nly Donuts on Haverhill Road in Amesbury during a spontaneous campaign the day before Thanksgiving. 

But in the case of Monday's campaign, Cowan raised the money and then gave it to Dunkin' Donuts staff beforehand. You could call it a pre-emptive random act of kindness. 

"I just figured it would be something fun and easy to do," Cowan said. "It has to be a drive-thru situation for it to work with total surprise. It's totally got to be like a tollbooth." 

Newburyport resident Amy Carter Noel was among those who donated money to the fund. When asked why, Noel said: "It's a very simple way to make someone's day. Even if it's just a cup of coffee, it's going to put a smile on their face." 

Earlier this month, Nice People of Newburyport contributed another act of random kindness when a bucket of chalk was left on Inn Street for anyone to use. The bucket was deposited just after the most recent early release day from local schools (June 1) and was a big hit, according to Cowan. 

"It was bananas," Cowan said, adding that a few hours later she returned to Inn Street to clean up. 

Cowan said the idea of starting the group came as a result of a need to highlight more of the positive things that take place within city limits. 

"These fun little community things, it just makes you happy to live here," Cowan said.

As for the group's next endeavor, Cowan said that was to be determined. She's been busy canvassing local businesses in search of the next great idea but so far nothing has been set. 

Staff Writer Dave Rogers can be reached by email at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at: @drogers41008.

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