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

An anonymous donor looking to boost the town of Earlham, Iowa, during the coronavirus shut-down 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 each.

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.”

[embedded content] Anonymous donor makes big difference for Earlham residents

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