Jen Gray, a seven-year employee of Sunshine & Pa's Restaurant in Meredith, said a donation jar with a "pay it forward" twist has been a hit with customers. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)
By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — A Facebook post calling for the public to "pay it forward" has taken on a life of its own at Sunshine & Pa's Restaurant at 11 Main St., where customers can donate to a jar as a way of helping someone down on their luck.
The donations allow a recipient to enjoy a hot coffee or a hot meal, courtesy of an anonymous stranger.
Sunshine & Pa's has unveiled the "suspended coffee" program. A note of explanation is attached, which reads: "How do I buy a suspended coffee? It's simple really. Donate to the jar above. If someone is in need of a hot cup of coffee or maybe even something to eat, the money donated will go to pay for it."
The note goes on to explain that the restaurant will always have $50 on hand in the donation jar to help someone who comes through the door. Anything above that amount will be donated to a local food pantry. "You not only support someone in need, you also support your local business as well as helping to restore a little faith in humanity," the note reads.
Eligibility is open ended. "It can be for the homeless man you pass every day on the street, a stressed student in the middle of exams, or a mom who needs a five-minute break. It is not up to us to judge who is in need. If someone asks, then they are in need. It helps remind us that no matter how alone you may feel, there is always someone somewhere who cares. Being alone is the scariest thing in the world, and our desire is to brighten those dark days of loneliness and fear. Yes, it's just a cup of coffee, but it's about more than the coffee!"
The family-owned restaurant, open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, has been in business since 1999.
The "Suspended Coffee/Meal" program at Sunshine & Pa's was the brainchild of Pat Couturier, a longtime waiter at the restaurant. About a week and a half ago the jar went onto a counter inside the door.
The idea came from a post on Facebook, which indicated that the "tradition" started in Naples, Italy, but spread worldwide.
"I'm really excited about it," Couturier said.
Couturier said he brought the idea to his boss, Shawn England, owner of the restaurant. The response was instant.
"He thought it was a great idea. He's always been about helping out the community in any way he can," Couturier recalled.
The benefit has been deemed a "win-win" because it's an opportunity to help out while also tapping the "generosity of customers."
"I've been there for nine years, and my customers have always taken care of me," Couturier said, so he wasn't surprised when they showed similar kindness toward those in need. He was right. The jar had more than $40 in it by Thursday, Couturier said.
Jen Gray, a seven-year employee of Sunshine & Pa's, said, "I think it's a good effort by the community to try to give back to some people who don't have anything."
Customers have warmed to the idea, she agreed.
"A lot of people have been asking," Gray said. "We have a lot of people coming in this weekend, so I'm sure there will be a lot of money."
Meredith is hosting the eighth annual New England Pond Hockey Classic this weekend.
For more about Sunshine & Pa's, visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Sunshine-and-Pas-Restaurant-388701774174/.
The meme posted on Facebook:
This story will warm you better than a coffee on a cold winter day:
"We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we're approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter:
'Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended'
They pay for their order, take the two and leave. I ask my friend:
'What are those 'suspended' coffees?'
'Wait for it and you will see.'
Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers — three for them and four 'suspended'. While I still wonder what's the deal with those 'suspended' coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks 'Do you have a suspended coffee?'
It's simple — people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can not afford a warm beverage. The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal.
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