An anonymous donor from Madison County, IA sent $150 gift cards to every household in the 1,400 person town of Earlham, in order to help the local economy amid the coronavirus outbreak.
On March 26, Mayor Jeff Lillie received a phone call from a man calling on behalf of an anonymous donor looking to help boost the town’s economy. The donor wanted to buy and then give away 100 $50 gift cards for the Hometown Market and West Side Bar and Grille, but Lillie offered a suggestion. A new restaurant had just opened up in town, Trostel’s Broken Branch, and he was hoping they could be part of the deal.
The donor agreed, and by the end of the day, stunned Lillie when they offered to purchase 549 $50 gift cards from each business. This meant every household in Earlham would receive $150 worth of gift cards, and more than $27,000 would be spent at Hometown Market, West Side Bar and Grille, and Trostel’s Broken Branch. “Financially, it’s one of the biggest things that’s ever happened to this small town,” Lillie told the Des Moines Register.
City staffers got to work stuffing 549 envelopes with the gift cards and a letter explaining the situation, and they arrived in mailboxes on Thursday. No one was more surprised by this turn of events than Jennifer Trostel, whose husband owns Trostel’s Broken Branch. The restaurant is brand new and doesn’t have a full staff yet, and she worried that the coronavirus pandemic would shut the place down before it ever fully opened. The stranger’s act of generosity, she told the Register, “just gave us hope.”