Paul Barb and Tim Young had just spent a long 12 hours putting out a persistent fire. After the exhausting task, the two New Jersey firefighters stumbled into a local cafe and asked for the strongest coffee they could get.
Waitress Liz Woodward took their order, and, overhearing the two of them discussing the 12 hours they’d spent putting out fires, couldn’t let them pay.
When it came time to get the bill, they found instead a cheery note of thanks.
“Thank you,” Woodward had wrote. “Your breakfast is on me today—Thank you for all that you do; for serving others & for running into the places everyone else runs away from. No matter your role, you are courageous, brave, and strong…Thank you for being bold and badass everyday! Fueled by Fire & Driven by courage—what an example you are. Get some rest! Liz”
The firefighters were so tremendously touched by the note they were almost brought to tears. Young said as much in a Facebook post where he shared an image of the note.
“Such a selfless and kind act. I definitely urge my friends to make a trip out and support the business, and if Liz happens to be your waitress, tip big.”
But the firefighters did more than give a shoutout to the kind waitress. They soon learned who Woodward was, and that her father was a quadriplegic who had been paralyzed for 5 years and was an aneurysm survivor,
They saw that Woodward had been trying to raise money to get her father a wheelchair accessible vehicle—it would cost her $17,000.
“A wheelchair accessible van would change my father’s life. It would change everything,” Woodward wrote on GoFundMe. “With the severity of his contractures, he is digressing more and more each day. It is sad, it is painful, and it is heartbreaking to witness, but together, we can change that. You can make a difference. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?”
The firefighters saw this, and made another call to the community.
“Turns out, the young lady who gave us a free meal is really the one that could use the help,” they wrote on Facebook.
And the community responded—donations poured in, and soon Woodward had raised $80,000—well over the amount she needed.
“All I did was pay for their breakfast. I didn’t expect anything more than a smile,” Woodward said.
Because of the community’s support, Woodward was able to get a wheelchair accessible van and her father was no longer confined to a bed or inside his home.
“This right here. This is it! Today is the first holiday in SIX YEARS that we are able to enjoy alongside family in my cousin’s home. We’re not celebrating in a hospital room or nursing home or in shifts at our own home– Because of all of you and our #MV1 we were able to get here!”