Just Giving Out Donuts, Year After Year
A Michigan man reprises the good turn we featured in our first post
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we spoke to photographer and QA engineer Josh Eikenberry. The subject of our very first post here on Good Turns, Eikenberry spent all night last Thanksgiving evening, and many more hours on Black Friday, delivering free donuts and coffee to retail employees who were unlucky enough to be working through the holidays. This year, he’s doing it again—for the seventh year in a row—and while his gofundme campaign is off to a strong start, it’s hitting some unusual problems as well.
Eikenberry was originally inspired because of his own experiences working retail and not being able to spend time with his family during the holidays. But for retail workers this year around Monroe, Michigan, where he lives, it seems things have changed. “It’s an interesting conundrum, because now I’m finding that a lot of stores aren’t open on Thanksgiving anymore,” he tells Good Turns. “That’s great, but it kind of lessens the impact of what I can do. It makes my gimmick less cool.”
“It’s not like I saved Christmas, it’s everybody that donated saved Christmas. You guys are doing the thing, I’m just the messenger.”
As a result, Eikenberry is “going away from the socialist ninja warrior I was trying to be, and toward more traditional fundraising. Last year we raised $1,600,” he says. “This year we got to $1,300 in three days. I want to try to push it to $3,000, that’s the goal for this year.”
What will Eikenberry do with all that cash? Surely not spend it all on donuts to hand out. With the local mall having lost its anchor Target outlet, it’s now closed on Thanksgiving, which leaves Eikenberry with fewer targets. “I’m still delivering them to the hospital and the state police post and the local police folks,” Eikenberry says. “That helps a little bit. They’re not going to go out of business anytime soon.”
But the balance will go, as it always does, to a local food bank—only this year the check will likely be much larger. “I’m going to go to the food bank with a gigantic cashiers check,” Eikenberry says. “Last year when I went to the food bank I think they said they can buy good food at 20 cents a pound. They’re like, ‘That’s going to feed 500 people!’ That’s a cool feeling. It’s a community thing. It’s not like I saved Christmas, it’s everybody that donated saved Christmas for 500 people. You guys are doing the thing, I’m just the messenger.”
In fact, practically all the money Eikenberry raises will go to the food bank—and workers will still get their donuts. “Now I just buy the donuts myself,” he says. “My boss donated $250 right off the bat. I don’t want his donation to be just for donuts. I make enough money I can just spring for the donuts.”
Besides, Eikenberry says, delivering the donuts is the best part of the good turn he does each year. “It’s the fun little interactions,” he says. “A couple years back, when the mall was open at ungodly hours, it was two or three in the morning and all the stores were open. There was this shop that I think was just called Stuff. They sell wigs and sunglasses and makeup. The owner is an immigrant from south Asia. So I explained what I was doing and I gave her some donuts. She had never had American donuts before, it had just never occurred to her. She was just really happy and thought it was the coolest thing in the world.”
Even the less sunny interactions are a pleasure, Eikenberry says. “One time I went into an Aeropostale and there were these snotty 16-year-olds working the shift,” he recalls. “They’re too cool for school. But show up with some donuts for them and they’re happy kids all of a sudden. The pretense just kind of melts away. Some people are suspicious. But I tell them, I’m just giving out donuts, man. Most people are very appreciative of it. It’s a fun thing.”
We’re certainly appreciative. And we look forward to Eikenberry’s efforts growing with the coming years. Look for Good Turns to grow too. We’re not quite a year along, and we’re looking forward to continuing to amplify the efforts of people like Eikenberry, and to sound a hopeful and heartwarming note each week, through the holidays and beyond.
Posted November 17, 2017