On her way to a doctor appointment Wednesday, Sarah Herrera stopped by the McDonald’s at 306 W. University Drive. She went inside at about noon and placed an order. While looking in her purse for money to pay for the food, an employee at the cash register told her someone else would cover her meal.
“Who is going to pay for it?” Herrera asked.
A lady came up to her and said she would buy the meals for her and her 2- and 4-year-old children.
The person providing the act of kindness was Tammy Peavey, an employee of Encompass Home Health. She spent $7.67 for chicken nuggets and a sandwich.
“I was surprised,” Herrera said. “I gave the lady a hug.”
Peavey, Kirby Morton, April Garrett, Kelly Ann Campbell, Stacey Herdon and Rick Smith — all from the Denton office of Encompass — decided to conduct a random act of kindness and spend $500 to cover lunch for anyone who ate at the McDonald’s during a specific hour.
“For me, it was personal,” Smith said. “I hit rock bottom in 2008. I was that customer at McDonald’s with four quarters in his pocket trying to feed myself and three kids.”
Smith joined Encompass, a company with Christian roots, about a year ago. The company serves patients by providing home health, hospice and pediatric services. Through its nonprofit affiliate, Encompass Care, staff members learned of a community service project called Ignite. The project was launched six weeks ago, he said.
“The concept is to do a random act of kindness and pay it forward,” Smith said. “Each team got to choose what they wanted to do.”
Encompass divided $1,000 among five Ignite teams. The Denton team had $200 for its act of kindness and was able to raise more money. After planning the project for a couple of weeks, Smith decided on McDonald’s.
“The idea was to motivate someone forward, so they can do that as well,” Smith said. “Everyone that was with us has a personal reason for doing this.”
Garrett, who spent most of her time paying for customers who went through the drive-through, said a man told her he wanted to pay for the people behind him.
“To me, that was what it was all about,” Garrett said.
Morton said another customer told him he was going to do something nice for someone else. Another customer wanted to donate to Ignite.
“We said no, that we appreciated it, but we were not going to take his money,” Garrett said.
During the lunch hour, the Ignite team saw people cry. Some customers were skeptical and thought there was another motive; others were just grateful.
Nelia Ibarra, the mother of a 3-year-old boy, walked into the restaurant with a friend. One of the team members covered her $15 order. The most the Ignite team spent on a meal Wednesday was $22.
“I feel blessed,” Ibarra said. “I’m thankful for whoever he was who did this.”
Morton said the program was inspired by Mitchell Communications Group, a firm based in Arkansas. In a video, Elise Mitchell, CEO of the firm, said the program is a way to empower employees to go into the community and conduct acts of kindness.
Like Mitchell Communications, Encompass Home Health wanted to inspire employees to give back, Smith said.
“There were people who pulled up in fancy cars, and there were others who were not so fancy,” Garrett said. “Everybody needs a little something. There were tears of surprise on their faces because they were not expecting it. That was a great thing.”
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.