Melinda Schmitt, 36, was homesick after moving from Connecticut to Raleigh, North Carolina.
"No matter how many people I met I just was missing the connection that I had with family and friends back home where we hugged often," Schmitt said.
Her solution: Hug strangers.
"I think all of us forget at some point that we're all human beings, we all crave the same things, we all crave love and acceptance," Schmitt told the News Observer. "A hug is a great way of saying 'I love and accept you.' And it's a great way of not feeling so lonely."
told the News Observer. "I'm always grateful for that person being in my life at that moment. They've done something for me or had a conversation with me. Gratitude is a very powerful emotion.""My motive is always gratitude," Schmitt, a stay-at-home mother of two,
While Schmitt's year-of-hugs challenge has come to an end, the random hugs haven't:
"Hugging has become a part of my life. I won't ever stop doing this. I won't ever stop hugging strangers and people who I've just met because it's a complete lifestyle change," she said.
"It feels so good, I just couldn't stop now."
Schmitt was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. She has been largely symptom free for almost a decade.
"I want to be remembered after I die," she said. "I want to be remembered as, 'She was kind and she loved people and she hugged people.'"