In January, we brought you a story from Bluffton, S.C., where acts of kindness abounded at a small coffee shop called the Corner Perk Cafe.
It all began when one of the cafe's regulars decided to "pay it forward." She donated $100 to buy other customers' coffee.
Since our story first aired, Corner Perk owner Josh Cooke says that he's received letters, postcards and visitors from all around the world. He's done interviews with the Toronto Star, a radio station in Ireland, "and a guy translated the story into Chinese and posted it to Chinese Yahoo, on their news story page, which is wild," Cooke says.
But publicity isn't the only thing that's increased, so have the acts of kindness. A nearby toll bridge in Hilton Head Island has seen an increase in people paying for the car behind them, and Cooke estimates that about 100 people have come into his coffee shop this year, donating thousands of dollars to others.
"A lot of times it's like a chain reaction, where somebody will start it and leave a 5, a 10 or a 20," Cooke says.
All of the attention and money has been great for business, Cooke admits, but it's customers' reactions that continue to floor him. He remembers one particularly frazzled woman, who forgot her money at home.
"We're like, 'Actually, someone's paid for your drink already,' " Cooke recalls, "She just kind of like, broke down and was like, 'I really needed that today, that just gives me the encouragement and strength to go on,' which was just a blessing, you know."
The Corner Perk Cafe in Bluffton, South Carolina.
Mandi Brower Photography
Mandi Brower Photography
At first glance, the Corner Perk Cafe in Bluffton, South Carolina seems like a regular neighborhood cafe, but in 2010, a customer's spontaneous act set it apart.
Thirty-year-old Josh Cooke, the owner of the Corner Perk describes when a woman came in one day and left a large bill.
"She comes in and says, 'Here's a $100, I just want to leave this for the next so and so people that come in and get drinks just to let them know, you know, that somebody was wanting them to have a great day and just to let them know to pay it forward," Cooke tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.
At $1.95 a cup, the $100 bought an afternoon worth of coffee — and puzzled reactions.
"I had to constantly tell them, 'No, you know, the cash is sitting right here on the counter," Cooke says. "Somebody literally walked in and left money to pay for your coffee."
Since then, the anonymous customer has donated seven to eight more times in the past two years. On December 29th, Josh posted the news of her most recent visit on his Facebook page and word spread quickly in the small community and others began to do the same.
The most recent act of generosity happened a week ago and Josh hopes that it won't be the last.
"We just want people to continue to pay it forward in any way — whether that's helping somebody with their electric bill or you know, filling up somebody's car with gas," Cooke says. "It's really nice to have a kind thought or you know, some sort of gesture to let people know that they're going to be okay."