It had already been a tough week for Wendy Mosko, a longtime waiter at the Brick Tavern Inn in Quakertown, PA. Then a customer at one of his tables said she wanted to talk to him.
The waiter’s eyebrows arched slightly above his face mask. What could it be? But still the pro, Mosko politely approached the table.
âFor the past 10 weeks, I’ve been participating in a Venmo Tip Challenge,â said diner Emily George.
Mosko’s eyes widened.
âI have heard wonderful things about you,â continued George. Words, words and more words. And then a number: “$ 600”.
“Are you serious?!?” Mosko yelled. “Oh my God!!”
Over the past year, people around the world have found ways, big and small, to say pandemic, you don’t win. One of those people is George, 39, wife and mother of two teenagers who lives in Quakertown.
George, a nurse, considers herself lucky. Throughout the pandemic, she has had a stable job. But, as she said, âBefore the pandemic, I had a life; I would go out and do things.
Including meals at wonderful restaurants in and around Upper Bucks County.
But with COVID-19, of course, there have been restaurant closings or reduced operating capacities – and reduced tips, the lifeblood of most restaurant workers.
âI just know how hard they work on a normal basis and what the pandemic has done to them financially,â said George.
Then she heard about people using social media to fundraise for “tips,” in which the money is given as a surprise, an inflated “tip” to favorite restaurants or their waiters. And she decided to give it a go.
In mid-January, she raised funds for her own challenge: she asked people to donate to a fund and, after a week, donate everything that had been raised to a waiter at a local restaurant. . She wasn’t expecting much; after all, times were tough for everyone. She directed people to her Venmo account and requested “anything from $ 0.50 to $ 5 (or a donation of your choice), and each week a different server in the community receives the pot.” (Or, if it’s really good, multiple recipients) … I’ll post updates and post the recipient weekly so you know where the money is going. “
âI threw up something on my Facebook and put it there. By the end of my first week, I had $ 280, âsaid George.
This weekend, she and a few girlfriends went to Karlton CafÃ©, one of their favorite places for breakfast. At the end of the meal, she got a hold of their server Patrick Kevin Finnegan, explained the tip challenge, and gave him a $ 280 tip for their $ 20 breakfast.
âHe didn’t know what to say,â George remembers. âHe was at a loss for words.
âIt was a magical moment,â said Finnegan, who is the cafe’s front desk manager and shared the tip with her staff.
As the rumor spread about what George was doing, more money was coming in. Sometimes the tip went to the staff of a restaurant; other times it went to a specific server designated by the donors.
By the end of the 10-week campaign, George had paid more than $ 5,100 to waiters at 17 restaurants.
Many recipients cried. Others, like Carrie O’Connor, a waitress at Giovanni’s Pizza in Quakertown, were at first bewildered – then utterly stunned.
As George explained to O’Connor what it was about, O’Connor thought George was asking for help.
âI was like, ‘Cool, cool,’â O’Connor said. âShe said, ‘No, it’s for you.’
âI was completely in shock because that sort of thing never really happens to me – it made me so grateful and happy,â said O’Connor, 19, computer scientist and pre-med student at the ‘Lehigh University, which tips its $ 200 tip for tuition. “It really made me feel a lot better about humanity.”
It’s a common reaction to what George does, said Jeannine DeFalco, one of the friends who accompanied her for the advice presentations.
âShe strongly believes in the community and gives back to the community. She inspires others to do good deeds because she gives so much of herself, âsaid DeFalco, a New Jersey school district superintendent.
Active at Quakertown Community Outreach, a local group that helps those struggling with homelessness, DeFalco said George recruited and organized volunteers last winter to ensure the Thanksgiving and Christmas meal program of the group continues despite the pandemic.
âShe wasn’t going to let that stop her from helping,â DeFalco said.
Personal difficulties either. George’s husband, a maintenance worker, was laid off and out of work during the pandemic, so George worked overtime in addition to his volunteer work. And then she came up with the tip challenge.
George said taking on the challenge made him feel good. She was able to hang out with girlfriends, try new places to eat, and let people know they were appreciated.
âI loved it,â she said. “It was exactly what my heart needed.”
For many tip recipients, the boost couldn’t have come at a better time. As George discovered, “Everyone has a story.”
A waiter’s husband had been seriously ill all year and nearly died. Another had just received her first apartment and did not know how she was going to pay the rent.
âI really tore it up,â said Kiersten Hickman, 21, a waitress at Casey’s Place who shared her $ 300 tip with a bartender in Casey. Hickman, who has a toddler and studies elementary education at Gwynedd Mercy University, was grateful for the extra money and touched that it came from people in her own community.
The next morning she was still so emotional that she even paid for someone else’s coffee when she was in line at Dunkin ‘.
Wendy Mosko, 50, the Brick Tavern Inn waiter who has been so warmly appointed, said her tipping experience also made her think about new ways to help others – like volunteering with programs. food, for example, or donate to a pantry.
âI always tell my sons: actions speak louder than words,â Mosko said. âIt definitely made me want to go out and do something. It was a very humbling experience for me.
Now that business is on the rise in restaurants, George has said the tip challenge is no longer needed on a weekly basis, although she intends to resurrect it every now and then to show some love and of appreciation to local restaurants and staff.
Don’t try to pay tribute to her for what she has done. She shakes him.
“I’m very lucky to live in a community where I installed a Venmo and I’m like, ‘Help me with my tip challenge’, and for 10 weeks people throw money away every week,” said George. “It’s really awesome.”
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