Mystery Man Donates $82,000 in Food Gift Cards to Every Household in Town

April 15, 2020

Christmas came early for the residents of a small town in Iowa.

An anonymous man has donated over $82,000 in gift cards to make sure all 539 households in Earham, Iowa have enough to eat amid the coronavirus pandemic, reported the Washington Post.

The town’s mayor, Jeff Lillie, was caught off guard upon receiving a phone call in late March from an unidentified man wanting to help the local economy by giving away gift cards to three of Earham’s merchants.

Initially, the mystery benefactor offered to buy 100 gift cards from two restaurants and a supermarket. An hour later, he phoned saying it would be upped to 250 gift cards and later to 500 gift cards.

"I said to him, at 500, you're darn near giving a gift card to every single household in Earlham," Lillie told CNN. "When I told him there were 549 households in town, he said 'Done.' And that was it. I was ecstatic because it made sure everyone would get a card."

It turns out that all 549 households wouldn’t just get one gift card, but one from each of the three local businesses. In the end, 1,647 gift cards, each worth $50, were purchased at a total price of $82,350.

At the beginning of April, each household in town was mailed $150 in gift cards.

On top of the residents being completely surprised, the local merchants expressed their extreme gratitude as the influx of cash via the gift cards made it possible for some to stay afloat as most restaurants were forced to close or transition to takeout or delivery only.

"It gave us hope," said the owner of Trostel Broken Ranch. "To be able to pay our bills and know that it's OK, we don't have to close our doors forever. We'll be here when this is over. I don't think we could be able to say that without the donation."

While  Mayor Lillie still doesn’t know the identity of the town’s secret Santa, he knows what he would say if he were ever to meet the mystery donor.

"I would tell them thank you 549 times," Lillie said. "It would be like meeting a hero."

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