Paying It Backward
Eileen Taylor had something sweet on her mind in the drive-through line at Heav’nly Donuts. But it wasn’t a doughnut. Just the day before, a stranger ahead of her in line had generously paid for her coffee. “[The gesture] made such a big difference in my day,” says Eileen, 55. She had recently lost her job as a physician’s assistant, and money was tight. But Eileen was inspired to pick up the $12 tab of the family in the car behind hers.
What she didn’t know was that her kindness would go viral, and in a chain reaction, dozens of other drive-through patrons would be prompted to pay backward too. In two and a half hours, 55 drivers paid for the order of the person behind them in line.
The doughnut shop’s employees had seen this before. In fact, this Heav’nly Donuts, in Amesbury, Massachusetts, was known as a special place—manager Wendy Clement says her customers are the “best in the world.” But, even so, the workers were amazed when a 15th car pulled up to the window and the driver paid for the next patron—they knew then that they were on a streak. By the time the lines for the drive-through and at the counter were empty, the shop had more than doubled its previous record.
Photograph by Spencer Heyfron
Later that day, Eileen swung back to pick up a coffee. Wendy told her what had happened. “Everyone was all aflutter,” says Eileen.
Now working again as a physician’s assistant, Eileen visits Heav’nly Donuts every Saturday morning, grabbing a coffee—and paying for the order of the customer behind her.
By Caitlin O’Connell
A Selfless Sponsor
In 2009, Dan Black was hit by a car in his hometown of Chepstow, Wales, as he was biking to his job at a grocery store. The accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. During his recovery, he suffered a stroke that rendered his right arm all but useless. Once a promising guitarist, Dan, now 25, lives with his parents and requires around-the-clock care that costs nearly $300,000 a year.
After the accident, a friend of Dan’s started the Help Dan Black fund to defray some of Dan’s medical expenses. Dan learned about an experimental stem cell treatment in China that could enable him to walk again. After four years, donations to Help Dan Black and money from several fund-raisers totaled nearly $30,000.
One day, in the summer of 2013, a news story caught the eye of Dan’s mother, Michaela, who then shared the article with her son. The story featured a local five-year-old boy named Brecon Vaughan, who had a rare form of cerebral palsy and had never walked without assistance.
The boy’s family had created a website with which to raise the nearly $100,000 needed for a trip to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where treatment was offered that could help Brecon walk. Only half the amount had been raised, said the report.
Dan deliberated. Then, after considering that his own dream of walking could be years away, he donated his $30,000 to Brecon’s cause.
“I wouldn’t wish getting paralyzed on anyone,” Dan told another newspaper. “I know how it feels to walk. Brecon doesn’t. He needs it much more than I do now.”
Dan’s generosity received a great deal of attention, and contributions started pouring in to the Vaughan website. The family soon exceeded their fund-raising goal. They’ve pledged excess funds, about $17,000, to the Tree of Hope charity, which helps sick children in the United Kingdom find specialized medical help. In October, Brecon and his family traveled to St. Louis to begin treatment.
“What Dan did is brilliant,” Brecon’s mother, Ann Drewery, said. “It is a phenomenal gift.”
By Damon Beres
Alvin Evans/Courtesy Carol Fowler
A Reception to Remember
September 15, 2013, was a perfect day for a wedding in Atlanta—sunny and 78 degrees. Tamara Fowler had planned to get married that day. But a month before the nuptials, she had phoned her parents in Roswell, Georgia, to tell them she was calling off the wedding.
Her parents, Willie and Carol Fowler, were “devastated,” Carol says. Why, then, on the same September day, were Willie, Carol, and Tamara eating, drinking, and dancing among hundreds of other revelers at the Villa Christina in Atlanta?
Because when Carol and Willie faced the prospect of losing 75 percent of their deposit at the upscale Italian restaurant they’d booked for their daughter’s reception, Willie had an idea. As Carol started to call the venue to cancel, her husband stopped her. “We’re going to have my birthday party there and invite the homeless as our guests,” Willie said. (His 70th birthday was on September 16.)
So Carol phoned a nonprofit agency and asked it to extend an invitation to local disadvantaged families; all told, 237 men, women, and children showed up.
During a cocktail hour, children played tag on the restaurant’s huge lawn and sipped pink lemonade. On the outdoor patio, adults munched on hors d’oeuvres like coconut shrimp, mini croissants stuffed with chicken salad, and macaroni and cheese shooters. After dinner, they ended the evening dancing in the ballroom. “Our guests told us it was the best meal they’d ever eaten,” says Carol.
At one point, Tamara pulled her mother into a hug, whispering, “I’m glad we were able to help so many people rather than let this go to waste.” Says Carol, “We got more out of this experience than we ever thought we would.”
By Alyssa Jung