It was Wednesday, March 17, around 1 p.m., and Erick Zavala, manager of the Sunglow Cafe in Spanish Fork, was experiencing a slower-than-usual day. With social distancing restrictions being put in place due to the COVID-19 virus, his dine-in cafe was nearly empty.
Suddenly, he looked up and saw a familiar face. It was a man who was a regular customer, but he wasn’t there to order food. Instead, he asked Zavala a question.
“How many employees do you have working?” the man asked.
Taken aback by the question, Zavala thought quickly to the total.
“15 or 20,” he said to the man.
It was then when the man handed Zavala an envelope with $1,500 — all in $100 bills — with a note that read, “Sunglow Staff, Thanks for all that you do. Things are about to get tough. Just wanted to help.”
Zavala said that the man instructed him to divide the money between his employees, and then he left the restaurant.
Not too far away at the Spanish Fork Chick-fil-A, manager Scott Rasband experienced something similar — this time, a woman walked in.
“Earlier in the week, a woman called Chick-fil-A’s human resource department to find out how many employees we had at our location, and we told her that we had 82,” Rasband said. “I was at work when she came in with an envelope that had 82 $100 bills and a note. She instructed me to divide the money among my employees.”
What was written on the note was the same, but this time it was addressed to the Chick-fil-A staff: “Thanks for all that you do,” the note read. “Things are about to get tough. Just wanted to help.”
The Daily Herald received a report that $3,400 was given to Costa Vida employees in Spanish Fork and confirmed with a store employee that the report was true. A picture was sent in of smiling employees who were the beneficiaries of the donated money.
According to Zavala and Rasband, the money was a much-needed boost to employee morale.
“The next morning after receiving the money, I distributed it to all our team members evenly, and they were thrilled and excited,” Rasband said. “We have still been very busy directing customers to the drive through, but there is still this uneasiness surrounding all of us. It gave us all peace that there are good people out there.”
Zavala, who operates on a smaller scale than Chick-fil-A, talked about the economic impact that the social distancing and health department regulations have had on his business and, in turn, his employees. He said the money brought many of his employees to tears.
“I have several single mothers who work for me, and a few are struggling to keep hours,” Zavala said. “I had one cry when I gave her the money because she didn’t have enough money to pay rent. We have a small cafe on the corner, and we don’t usually do to-go orders, mostly dine in, so this has made it hard for us. It made us all very happy to have customers like this man who support us. We love all of our customers.”