Anonymous donor surprises every household in Iowa town with $150 in gift cards
Every resident in Earlham received this letter and three gift cards worth $150.
An anonymous donor has donated $150 in gift cards to every household in Earlham, Iowa, to help the city offset the devastating effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Residents of the small town of about 1,400, which is located about 30 minutes from downtown Des Moines, received the surprising gift Thursday, after a few weeks of negotiation, planning, and humble generosity.
On March 26 the city’s mayor, Jeff Lillie, received a call from a man saying that a person who didn’t want to be identified wanted to help the community’s economy by buying 100 gift cards in the amount of $50 from two local businesses, the West Side Bar and Grille, and to the local grocery store, the Hometown Market.
Feeling his luck, the mayor mentioned that another restaurant, Trostel’s Broken Brunch — which had opened its doors just before a statewide directive banned any dine-in service — would also benefit from outside financial help.
According to the Des Moines Register, a new deal was arranged, and the offer was increased to 250 cards, which would be split among the three businesses.
Shortly after the second offer, the person called the mayor again to let him know that the offer had changed, yet again: The mysterious good Samaritan was increasing his generosity, and he would buy 500 cards, instead.
"That's almost one per household," Lillie told the man.
The man asked the mayor how many cards the donor would have to buy to benefit every single household of the community.
The magic number, Lillie told him, was 549 — to which he agreed.
However, the still-unnamed donor wasn’t quite finished; he agreed to buy 549 $50 cards at each of the three businesses, totaling more than $82,000 worth of gift cards.
The mayor could barely believe the selfless show of hope.
“(There are) bad things that have been happening,” Lillie told the Des Moines Register.
“As the mayor of a small town, making the decision to close our community centers and city hall and our library and all of the other bad decisions that we’ve been forced to make — and then here’s this really great thing. It just tore down my walls,” he said.
“You couldn’t even believe what was happening,” said Jennifer Trostel, whose husband owns Trostel’s Broken Branch.
“You were so grateful you started to cry. You couldn’t believe that people would actually want to help you in such a huge way that you can’t even fathom that kind of help,” she added.