At this coffee shop, random acts of kindness top the menu

January 22, 2012

If you're measuring the kindness at the Corner Perk in Bluffton, S.C., it's safe to say their cup runneth over. It's a cycle of generosity that started two years ago — and lately it's spinning faster and faster.

In a time when everyone seems to be hard-pressed for cash, more and more are starting to give it away. "It made my day, it really did. It made my day,” customer Michael Aldea said.

"When I went to go pay, they said 'Oh, it's paid for. Somebody paid it forward,' " customer Sheri Buda said.

"People will come in and say, ‘What do you mean? I don't understand. Are you trying to buy me a coffee today?' " And I say, "No, somebody came in 30 minutes ago and left money to pay for drinks until it runs out,” Josh Cooke, owner of the Corner Perk, explained.

The pay-it-forward phenomenon kicked off two years ago when an average-joe customer left the first $100 bill.

"It's someone that just has a kind heart and wants that to generate in this area," Cooke said of the anonymous female donor.

That donor got what she wanted — not just customers, but strangers who heard what was happening started paying for people who follow. The owner says the lady who started the pay-it-forward tradition kept it going for a few months now and then — but in the past few weeks, the phenomenon has really taken off, with other anonymous contributors following suit.

"He said, 'I want to do that, too,' Corner Perk’s Sara Clemmons said of one donor. "He just gave me the hundred dollars and left. He didn't even get anything."

None of the anonymous donors leaves their name: only their money, and a feeling of inspiration that is jolting this community.

"For someone to come out of the blue and think about someone other than themselves, it's refreshing,” Aldea said.

"It's very inspiring to just see someone living out what so many of us talk about, and doing things for other people,” customer Jenny Dolin agreed.

While they all walk in for a pick-me-up, lately that comes from the compassion that comes with the coffee, not the caffeine.

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