While St. Helens is no stranger to “paying it forward” in local drive-through lines, a spree of kindness at the St. Helens Burgerville that lasted for more than two hours on Thursday, Oct. 11 may have set a new local record ... and it all started with an ice cream sandwich.
According to St. Helens Burgerville general manager, Leah Williams, the kindness spree began when local drive-through worker Jacob Franke met a woman at the window who’d ordered two pumpkin spice ice cream sandwiches. She told Frankie she wanted to do something nice for the person behind her.
“I would like to pay for their meal,” she said. “Is that okay?”
Franke said sure, but it would cost her $22. The woman said she still wanted to pay for the meal, and added, “please tell them to have a really nice day.”
Williams said the people in the next car were blown away, and decided to pay forward the random act of kindness.
“This continued for 51 cars,” Williams said. “And each and every one of them offered words of encouragement or kindness to the car behind them.”
Those words included things like, “have a great day”, “please smile”, and “hope this makes your evening better.”
Williams said she’s seen things like this happen before, especially around the holidays, but never to such an extent. The most cars she’s personally witnessed paying it forward was an estimated 10.
“Somebody might buy a gift card and say ‘give it to the next car’ or ‘give it to somebody who doesn’t have enough money today.’ We’re in a small town that likes to take care of each other,” Williams said.
What’s more, despite the influx of tourists for the Spirit of Halloweentown celebration, Williams believed that most of the customers paying it foward that night were locals. She said a lot of regulars were spotted, and given Thursday night there were a few local sporting events going on, she knows the locals come in before the games or directly after.
Reader Beth Peterson said in The Chronicle’s comment section that she was number 26 in the ‘pay it forward’ spree, and admitted that she teared up.
“Our community needed this more than you realize,” Peterson said. “Let’s keep it going - be kind and love your neighbors. Blessings to you all.”
Reader Sy Hendrickson said he was number 36.
“Loved being able to pass it on and keep it going. So happy to hear it lasted 51 cars,” Hendrickson said. “In addition to the generosity of the customers, the employees were fantastic and shared the journey of the night as we picked up our order.”
The spree lasted from 6:30 p.m. to around 9 p.m., during which time St. Helens Burgerville sold around $800 worth of food. Williams said the most expensive meal paid for was $40, and the kindness bled over into Friday. When a Portland media outlet was on site doing a story, one of their guests heard about it, a young mother with two boys, and left money at the counter for the people who would come through after her. Those next customers paid only $3 for their meal.
Williams said Franke came in smiling the next day because he was so blown away by how positive the experience was.
“He was just like, ‘this really just made me feel so good,’” Williams said. “Even though you hear a lot of bad things about people in general, I think people in St. Helens are great people who like to help each other and support each other.”