In Chandler, Arizona, the employees of a local Arby’s saw one customer every day. This 97-year-old man ordered the same meal every day for years, and nobody knew why. When the manager learned his reasons, she worked with the community to make his life easier. Here is what a few employees did to change a man’s life forever.
One Arby’s In Arizona Had A Peculiar Customer
Most people have a favorite restaurant that they visit frequently. For one 97-year-old man, it was an Arby’s in Chandler, Arizona. He would go there for lunch every day and order the same meal each time.
This man visited so often that every staff member knew him. But nobody saw him as often as the manager, Christina Gamage, who became curious about why he chose this particular restaurant. After all, he had been going there for years.
For Years, He Ordered The Same Meal
Gamage began working as an Arby’s manager in 2015. Shortly after she started working, an elderly man with a walker started coming in. Every day, he entered the restaurant around lunchtime and ordered the same meal.
This wasn’t the only Arby’s in Chandler; it was on the corner of Queen Creek and Alma School Roads in the northern side of town. Because of his walker, Gamage assumed that the man simply went to the Arby’s closest to him. But why?
Employees Called Him Mr. Doug
Two years flew by since the man began visiting Arby’s, and all the employees knew him. His name was Doug Parker, although everyone knew him as “Mr. Doug.” They did everything they could to make sure he was comfortable.
“He comes in with a walker, as soon as we see him come to the doors, we try [to] grab the doors for him,” Christina Gamage told FOX10. The employees would also lead him to his table– the same one every day, of course.
Mr. Doug Lived Through Some Hard Times
Mr. Doug appeared shortly after Gamage started working there. Over the years, she learned a few things about him. He told her that he was a decorated World War II veteran and lived in the retirement home down the street.
“He’s gone through a lot being a veteran, coming in, being in a retirement home,” Gamage later said, “but he doesn’t have family.” It was a sad story, and Mr. Doug had clearly gone through some hard times.
Soon, He Became Part Of The Family
Although he was alone, Mr. Doug was very kind to all of the Arby’s employees and fellow patrons. People even looked forward to his arrival. “We try to go above and beyond for him because he needs the extra love,” Gamage said.
The Arby’s employees considered Mr. Doug as a part of their family. But that did not satiate their curiosity; why did he come here every day, and why did he order the same sandwich and drink?
But Why Did He Always Order The Same Thing?
Over the years Gamage had learned Mr. Doug’s order by heart: “A roast beef slider with the Swiss melted…and a Coke with no ice.” She wasn’t the only one. Every employee had memorized Mr. Doug’s order.
But that did not explain why he bought the same meal every day. Wouldn’t he get tired of eating it all the time? After almost two-and-a-half years, Gamage finally decided to ask him. Surely it wasn’t just because of the caring service?
His Answer Was Unexpected
One day, while Mr. Doug was sitting as his usual table, Gamage brought his order to him. After she gave it to him, she asked, “Hey, Mr. Doug. We just want to know what keeps you coming back to this Arby’s location?”
Doug’s reply was not what any of the employees had expected. “This is the only place I can get a sandwich or anything else to eat that doesn’t hurt my stomach,” he admitted.
Mr. Doug Could Only Eat At Arby’s
“He has a stomach disorder, this is, unfortunately, the only thing he can eat,” explained general manager Travis Coye. Sadly, this disorder limited what Doug could eat. The Arby’s sandwich was the only thing that helped him feel good, and with no family to provide for him, he had to get it himself.
Word quickly spread amongst the employees– that Mr. Doug wasn’t eating his order because it was his favorite meal, but out of necessity. The staff felt empathy for him.
The Employees Decided To Help
Since the Arby’s staff knew that Doug had no family, they decided to help him themselves. “He’s expressed to us multiple times that we’re like his family, and we feel that ourselves,” Coye said. Surely, there must be something they could do to make his life easier.
The Arby’s staff gathered to discuss what they could do, and they even pooled money for the donation. It was a community effort, but it would end up paying off for everyone.
One Worker Added A Suspicious Addition To A Meal
In December 2018, Daniel Moloney was eating at the Arby’s on Queen Creek with his mother. While watching the employees, he noticed one of the workers drop a red card inside of a food bag as a last-minute addition.
The employee sneaked a look at the customer after sticking the card in the bag. Moloney noticed that she was looking at Doug–after all, every regular knew Mr. Doug. What was she doing? Surely nothing nefarious, right?
What Were They Doing?
Stunned, Moloney took out his phone, ready to document whatever the employee had dropped into that meal. Did they sabotage a customer’s meal? But little did Moloney know that that was all part of a plan organized by the entire staff.
The red card was actually a donation that the entire Arby’s staff cooperated to make. Along with Moloney, the entire Arby’s staff was watching Doug expectantly. How would they react to this surprise gift?
But This Was All Part Of The Surprise
After tossing the red envelope into the bag, the employee brought the meal to the customer–Mr. Doug. The employee, who was none other than the manager Christina Gamage, waited for Doug to open his meal.
Mr. Doug was unwrapping his usual meal when he noticed the card. Surprised, he took it out and examined it. Although Moloney could not see what the card was, he saw Doug crack a smile the moment he opened it.
The Employees Gave Doug A Massively Generous Gift
As it turns out, the Arby’s staff gave Mr. Doug a $200 gift card to the restaurant. All of the employees had contributed money to the gift card, which would cover a few weeks’ worth of meals.
“We really enjoy you here, and we always want you to come back,” Gamage told Mr. Doug as he opened the gift card. Onlookers such as Maloney were shocked; rarely did staff of a large restaurant chain give away expensive gift cards.
Mr. Doug’s Reaction Was Priceless
When Doug received the $200 gift card, he was overwhelmed with emotion. “He was shocked,” Gamage recalled. “[He] hardly had anything to say.”
Although words could not express how Doug felt, he still had a joke to lighten the mood. “I never know if I’ll be here the next day, but thank you so much for this,” the veteran said. That encapsulates what kind of man Mr. Doug is: a down-to-earth, humorous, and kind one.
But Wait–There Was More To The Gift
Believe it or not, the gift card was only one part of the gift. The Arby’s employees also gave Mr. Doug their personal phone numbers. They even offered to deliver lunch to him.
If Mr. Doug ever got sick, or couldn’t make it to Arby’s for any other reason, the employees would bring him his favorite meal. That way, Doug would not have to eat anything that would upset his stomach. The staff was truly going above and beyond.
Unknown To The Employees, Their Kindness Was Recognized
Unbeknownst to the employees, customer Daniel Moloney had witnessed the entire interaction. He also took a photo of the exchange on his phone, which he later posted on Facebook. He captioned it with an explanation of Mr. Dough and the gift.
To be clear, the staff had not asked Moloney to document Doug’s early Christmas gift. He posted it because he could not believe the generosity that the Arby’s employees provided. However, nobody expected the story to go viral.
The Customer Shared Mr. Doug’s Gift On Facebook
Moloney’s Facebook post ensured that the charitably Arby’s staff did not go unnoticed. “This is one of those moments that make you happy to be alive,“ Moloney wrote, along with a summary of Mr. Doug’s gift.
“There are so many good people in the world,” Moloney continued. “These employees selflessly put in their own money, so an elderly man could come in and enjoy dinner on what he never knew could be his last [day].”
And The Story Quickly Went Viral
Doug Moloney’s now-deleted Facebook post went viral. Other accounts that reshared the story have garnered over 12,000 likes and over 8,300 shares. Commenters were giving kudos to the Arby’s staff and thanked Mr. Doug for his service.
“Thank you Doug for your service and thank you to the employees, management, and corporate for their generosity,” wrote one commenter Carol Ann Muzik. “It’s so good to see that there are good and caring people in this crazy world we’re living in now!”
Then, The Story Made National Headlines
It wasn’t long before the story made national headlines. FOX 10 swiftly picked up the story and visited the Arby’s in Chandler. There, they interviewed the staff and received the full story.
From there, the story took off. The Chandler community was particularly impacted. They rejoiced because their local restaurant aided one of their veterans when nobody else would. Unbeknownst to Doug, this would result in even more generous gifts for him in the future.
Arby’s Corporate Wanted To Get Involved
When Doug’s story made national headlines, it also made it to corporate. Initially, Doug’s gift had nothing to do with corporate; it was planned and organized by the local staff. But after hearing the news, corporate wanted to get involved.
Arby’s headquarters, which is located in Atlanta, Georgia, appreciated their employees’ generosity. They decided to extend Doug’s gift far more than the Chandler staff initially had. Believe it or not, Doug’s story was about to become more heartwarming.
Corporate Proposed An Even Better Gift
Although the $200 gift card was magnanimous, the employees at Arby’s corporate thought that Doug deserved more. They believed that Doug should receive free meals for life so that he could continue to eat without upsetting his stomach.
Of course, corporate could not enact this without gaining permission from the local Chandler restaurant. Daily free meals would cost the store a lot of money–around a few hundred dollars per week. Could the store afford to do such a thing?
Mr. Doug Received Free Meals For Life
Fortunately for Doug, the Arby’s in Chandler had no problem offering him free meals. “Let’s give him Arby’s for life,” Gamage told ABC News. “I have no problem with that.”
Had the employees been able to afford all of Doug’s meals, they would have. But individual stores cannot provide free meals without the permission of corporate. Now that they had it, the employees could give Doug another surprise–one that he wouldn’t expect even in his wildest dreams.
The Second Surprise Was Even Better
Soon after Doug received his $200 gift card, the Arby’s staff provided him with a second surprise. They told him that, once his gift card ran out, all other meals were free. He was free from stomach issues for life.
Just as before, Doug was delighted. Although his reaction was not captured on a customer’s phone, he did reveal how important it was in interviews. He felt as touched by the staff as the staff was by him.
Doug Also Considered The Staff To Be His New Family
During an interview with ABC News, Mr. Doug explained that the Arby’s staff were his new family. “Anything I need, they give it to me,” he said. The staff’s extra attention and care did not go unnoticed.
He felt thrilled that all of his future meals were free. “It’s just so satisfying,” he said about his Arby’s meal. It is good that he still likes it, since he’ll continue to eat it for a while.
Why Would Arby’s Do This?
Some people were skeptical about Arby’s involvement in one man’s life. Some people suggested that the company would spend more money on advertising than Doug’s free meals, which gives them free publicity.
But Arby’s has a greater motivation to get invested in this story. The company has supported veterans for years, and they offer free Roast Beef sandwiches for veterans on every Veteran’s Day. Along with that, they donate to other charities such as No Kid Hungry.
A Veteran Organization Recognized The Staff
In May 2019, a veterans group decided to officially recognize the employees at Arby’s. Run for the Wall is a charity group that encourages people to ride motorcycles on pre-planned routes, all while raising money for veterans.
The routes usually end at memorial cemeteries, where fundraisers honor and respond those who were KIA or MIA. As a well-known veteran support group, Run for the Wall was particularly impressed by the staff at Arby’s, who were not seeking fame or recognition.
The Staff Were Proud To Support The Cause
Run for the Wall announced their recognition of the Arby’s staff in Chandler, Arizona for treating Mr. Doug like family. Gamage couldn’t be happier. “It was truly an honor, she said. “There are so many amazing stories about our veterans, and I thank them for everything they’ve done for us!”
Veterans often struggle with health conditions and adjusting to civilian life. By supporting Doug, Gamage hoped that other people would feel inspired to reach out to other veterans.
Even An Eye Doctor Reached Out To Doug
Arby’s was not the only person to reach out to Doug. After hew news story broke, a local optometrist decided to help, too. One day, he stopped by the Arby’s to talk to Doug.
The eye doctor offered Mr. Doug a free eye exam. During it, he realized that Doug’s glasses were no longer the right prescription. He then gave Doug a free pair of glasses so that the veteran would not have to strain his eyes.
Even During Illness, The Arby’s Staff Helped
In spring 2019, Doug could not walk to Arby’s due to an illness. The staff followed up on their promise. Every day, an employee delivered his favorite meal to the retirement home where he lived.
“Right now, he’s unable to get to us,” Gamage told ABC15. “So we make sure he still gets his meals somehow.” It seems that the staff’s help was not just empty promises, and Doug is well cared for even when he can’t show up.
Things Felt Different At The Waffle House That Day
This particular Waffle House had quite a few regular customers. One of them was a woman named Laura Wolf. She frequently stopped into the restaurant for a cup of coffee and conversation with the Waffle House staff.
Most of her visits to the restaurant were pretty routine. But today, March 3, 2018, was destined to be different than any other day she’d stopped in for her breakfast. Laura saw something that not only caught her attention but caused her to push breakfast aside and reach for her phone. She started to take photos of a woman, who had no idea that anyone was recording her actions.
Why Were There So Many People At The Waffle House?
Even before something prompted Laura to start filming a waitress, another thing had seemed odd to Laura on this day. Although the La Marque Waffle House usually stayed pretty busy, today it was much more crowded than usual. In fact, it almost seemed as if a large number of the town’s 16,000 residents were there.
The servers scrambled to keep up with all the breakfast orders during the morning rush and Laura kept her eye on all of them.
Laura Watched The Waitress
As a regular visitor to this particular Waffle House, Laura Wolf had gotten to know some of the employees’ names. One of the waitresses who was working on this especially busy morning was a woman named Evoni Williams. She was a long-time employee at the restaurant, so she was well-known to her customers as a hard worker.
Just 18 years old, Evoni dedicated herself to saving up money for college. The long hours at Waffle House were helping, but she hadn’t been able to save very much yet.
What A Busy Day!
Evoni was pretty excited that the restaurant was so crowded – after all, tips are how a server makes the majority of their pay. And more customers naturally means more tips. She got down to business, taking orders and delivering up hot plates of food.
Unfortunately, the restaurant was a little understaffed on this busy day, so Evoni had to hustle even more to cover her duties and keep up with everything. She was really running around to get things done today, but as she dropped off an order at one table, she noticed something that distracted her for a moment.
What Had She Noticed?
It was a particular customer that had drawn Evoni’s attention as she served breakfast to a table of hungry patrons. She’d seen him at the restaurant several times and he usually visited at least once every week. He was definitely a regular.
The customer was a 78-year old man named Adrien, but everyone used the affectionate nickname “Mr. Karaoke” instead. The Waffle House staff knew that he had some health problems and he was now carrying an oxygen tank with him. What Evoni did next was unexpected.
Adrien Flags Evoni Down
Evoni was moving around non-stop to keep up with the fast pace at Waffle House that crowded day. She didn’t really have any time to stop and take a break. Finally, she felt like she was getting caught up on all her duties. Just then, Adrien attempted to get her attention.
She finally noticed Adrien’s efforts to be noticed, so she walked over to the bar area where he was sitting. The elderly man started whispering to her, in a quiet voice so no one else could overhear. Remember that Evoni did not know that she was being recorded by another customer who had noticed this interaction. She had no idea she was on camera.
The Camera Sees It All
Laura Wolf was seated in a booth located directly across from where Evoni and Adrien were having their private conversation. She couldn’t hear what they were talking about and she leaned in a little closer to see if she could catch a snippet of the interaction.
Laura thought the man looked to be a little bit embarrassed as he talked to Evoni. Sensing that something incredible was taking place, it was then that Laura took out her camera and started filming.
Difficult To Understand
During the breakfast rush at a crowded Waffle House, it can be a challenge to hear anyone’s voice above the din. Especially the voice of an old man who was on oxygen for medical reasons.
Evoni leaned in and tried her hardest to understand Adrien, but one of the line cooks noticed that she was holding things up, something the restaurant couldn’t afford on a busy day. Despite his yelling to get her attention, she ignored him and continued to listen to Adrien.
Was He Upset With His Food?
At first, Evoni thought that regular customer Adrien might have had a complaint about his food. After all, that’s one of the most common reasons for a diner to flag down their server. In fact, after quietly whispering something to her, the old man began to push his plate of food her way.
Evoni took the plate, loaded up with ham, toast, home fries, and scrambled eggs, and pushed it right back to him. What was going on?
Someone Was Watching
It might sound like this interaction was taking a long time, but the entire event was only a minute or so of Evoni’s busy morning. She was completely focused on Adrien during this brief moment. All thoughts of the packed restaurant and its many hungry customers left her mind temporarily as she listened to the elderly man speak.
Laura was still filming the interaction, of course, but there was another recording being made as well!
The Security Camera
In a busy restaurant like Waffle House, security cameras are increasingly important. This particular location did have a CCTV security camera set up. At the same time Laura was watching the interaction take place, the camera, hanging from the ceiling, was also recording everything that happened.
The silent camera, barely noticed by anyone, gave a bird’s eye shot of everything happening between Evoni and Adrien on that fateful day at a Waffle House.
Laura Decided To Post The Video Publicly
Laura Wolf was speechless after she witnessed the scene that had just played out in front of her. She now had several photos of Evoni and Adrien as the waitress returned his breakfast plate to him.
She struggled with what to do with the photo evidence, and eventually decided to post it to her Facebook account. She shared it, not having a clue how she was about to change Evoni’s life.
It All Started With A Question
The astonishing scene that Laura Wolf had just watched and recorded all started when Adrien flagged down waitress Evoni. The man was experiencing a decline in his health and was not able to perform personal tasks the way he used to be able to.
Laura thought he had seemed embarrassed or self-conscious when he talked to Evoni. It turned out that he needed assistance cutting his breakfast ham. “I can hold a fork fine and dandy,” Adrien told ABC News. “But to cut it looks like I’m going to stab somebody,” he continued. This is what he had asked of Evoni – for help cutting his food.
Helping Someone In Need
Later, Evoni talked about the scene at the Waffle House on that fateful morning. “He was like, ‘My hands are not functioning too well,'” she said of Adrien’s request. She had to really lean in order to hear his question.
“He needed me to cut his food for him, so I did,” she told ABC News. Evoni took his food, cut the ham into, bite-sized pieces and pushed it all back over to him. This was pretty routine for a waitress to do with a regular customer, so Evoni went about her regular day and didn’t much of it. For now.
Laura’s Facebook Post Was Already Making Waves
Laura felt strongly that she wanted to get the story out about what she had just witnessed. She figured Facebook would be the best place to share her photos. Here’s what she posted. “I don’t know her name but I heard this elderly man tell her his hands don’t work too good.”
Laura went on, “He was also on oxygen and struggling to breathe. Without hesitation, she took his plate and began cutting up his ham. This may seem small but to him, I’m sure it was huge. I’m thankful to have seen this act of kindness and caring at the start of my day while everything in this world seems so negative.” The post instantly affected everyone who saw it.
She Never Expected To Go Viral
Even while she was still at the Waffle House, Laura’s post started to get some major attention. Her phone was lighting up with alerts left and right. People shared positive things about Evoni, and many of them shared Laura’s post on their own accounts. Word rapidly began to spread of this woman’s kind deed.
“If we could all be like this waitress and take time to offer a lending hand…” was how Laura decided to close her Facebook post. Little did she know what would happen as a result.
Praise For Evoni Was Overwhelming
It didn’t take long for Laura’s post to go viral. In just a few days since she first shared it, the photos racked up 90,000 likes and nearly 50,000 shares. People were truly touched by Evoni’s kind act and wanted to share the heartwarming moment with their own friends and family.
Adrien got attention from the post, too, he told ABC News. “Somebody told me two days later that I was very popular because they saw me on Facebook,” he said, and joked that “They got a fancy picture of my suspenders in the back.” It seems everyone in the town knew about Evoni and Adrien.
The Mayor Gets Involved
La Marque, Texas’s mayor is named Bobby Hocking. When word of Evoni’s good deed reached his office, he instantly wanted to meet her. It was arranged that the meeting would take place at the Waffle House (of course).
The restaurant was filled with cameras for the event, which Evoni had expected. But she had no idea what the mayor had planned for this special event. He wanted to honor her in front of everyone.
The Big Day Arrived
Evoni’s big day arrived, and she watched as her place of employment filled with reporters and camera crews. At least this time around, she would be aware that she was being recorded!
The mayor arrived and stood behind the Waffle House bar, right where Evoni had been when she’d helped Adrien with his breakfast that day. And then the mayor announced that he wanted to give a special presentation. He told the gathered crowd and news cameras that he was declaring March 8 as “Evoni ‘Nini’ Williams Day” in La Marque. And things were about to get even better for Evoni, who was already in disbelief.
Returning The Favor
As Evoni’s story made its rounds on the internet, people wanted to learn more about her. How did this remarkable woman end up working at Waffle House?
People found out that Evoni worked so very hard because she wanted to save enough money to attend college. In a “paying it forward” move, some residents of La Marque set up a GoFundMe account in an effort to raise tuition money so Evoni could go to school. And it turns out that someone very important received news of this fundraising effort.
Many People Got Involved To Help Evoni
More and more people began to donate to the GoFundMe page that had been set up to raise money for Evoni and “pay it forward” so she could attend college. People right from her own town and people across the country donated what they could to the kind Waffle House waitress.
At Texas Southern University in Houston, some staff learned about Evoni and her goal of attending college. They decided to help out in a special way. One of the university’s administrators said. “We wanted to reward Evoni’s act of kindness.”
Someone Important Was There That Day
As Evoni learned about the new holiday in her honor that day at Waffle House, she beamed knowing that Adrien and Laura were both there to cheer her on. But there was someone else present that Evoni did not expect in her wildest dreams.
Also there was the president of Texas Southern University! He said that he wanted the chance to meet Evoni and “let her know that good deeds do not go unnoticed, ” as he said in an interview later. he later explained in a television interview.
An Unexpected Announcement
After the mayor’s presentation of Evoni’s special holiday, it was the president of Texas Southern University’s turn to take his place behind the Waffle House bar. He was about to give the special woman a gift no one could have imagined.
With a jumbo-sized check in hand, the president announced that the school was awarding Evoni a scholarship worth a whopping $16,000! Evoni, and most of the crowd, burst into tears of surprise and joy.
The People Responsible
The folks who helped start this whole thing were especially happy for Evoni. Laura Wolf and Adrien could have had no possible idea the role that they would play in one Waffle House waitress’s future.
As she spoke to reporters that day, Laura had this to say. “It was so busy in here, you know? And she actually took the time to stop and hear what he had to say instead of walking past him. It just meant something to me,” she explained. And Adrien said that the act meant a lot to him as well.
Just Another Day Of Being Kind For Evoni
Ever humble, Evoni said that she did what anyone else would do if they knew someone was in need. She didn’t let the award, the media attention, or even the scholarship go to her head.
As she told local reporters “I don’t know, it was something I would do any other day.” But anyone who’s ever been helped by the kindness of a stranger might disagree with her. Evoni is a beautiful example of treating people with kindness.