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Anonymous donor spends $82,000 to send $150 in food gift cards to every household in Iowa town

Gift cards from three locally owned businesses were distributed to each mailbox

Image source: KCCI-TV YouTube video screenshot

An anonymous donor looking to boost the town of Earlham, Iowa, during the coronavirus shutdown made a big impact on residents and local businesses last week, when they spent more than $82,000 for each mailbox to be filled with $150 in gift cards to places that sell food.

What are the details?

In late March, Earlham's mayor, Jeff Lillie, was contacted by a man who said he represented an anonymous donor who wanted to help the local economy by purchasing a hefty number of gift cards from a local restaurant and a grocery store, the Des Moines Register reported.

After a discussion over details, the go-between told Mayor Lillie that the donor would purchase 549 gift cards — one for every household in the 1,400-person town — from each of three businesses to be distributed in people's mailboxes last Thursday.

Those businesses included the local grocery store, Hometown Market, and two restaurants: Trostel's Broken Branch and West Side Bar and Grille. Each establishment received roughly $27,000.

Mayor Lillie told the Register that he was overcome by the donation.

"(There are) bad things that have been happening," he told the outlet. "As the mayor of a small town, making the decision to close our community centers and city hall and our library and all of the other bad decisions we've been forced to make — and then there's this really great thing. It just tore down my walls."

Lillie wasn't the only person in Earlham who became emotional upon learning about the much-needed gift to citizens and businesses. Local resident Cathy Nelson told KCCI-TV that when she learned of the donor's generous contribution, "I had chills. I think actually I started to cry."

Nelson said of the donor, who has insisted on remaining unnamed, "Whoever this person is, they are extremely amazing."

Anonymous donor makes big difference for Earlham residents www.youtube.com

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