‘The world can change:’ This Apopka nonprofit doles out random acts of kindness

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APOPKA, Fla. – When this week’s Getting Results Award winner turned 40, he celebrated by doing 40 random acts of kindness. It felt so good, Joe Ferrer started the nonprofit, Mailbox Money, to make it easier for others to feel the same way.

We tagged along on what he calls National Golden Envelope Day.

Saturday mornings at the Eggs Up Grill in Winter Garden are busy. There was a line of people waiting to be seated and waitress, Tiffany Bender, jumped from table to table, taking orders and refilling drinks.

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Bender, a single mother of three, has worked here for about a year.

“It’s awesome, I love this place,” Bender said between coffee refills. “The regulars come in all the time, and we know all their names. The customers here are amazing.”

Bender didn’t know it yet, but she was about to get a big surprise from one of those customers—but he’s not a regular. In fact, he’s never been here before.

Ferrer sat in Bender’s section, enjoying breakfast—the calm before his day got very busy.

“There’s this nervousness before it happens,” Ferrer said. “That’s the beauty of what we do. It’s just amazing to be able to do stuff for people.”

Moments later, Ferrer stepped out into the parking lot, grabbed a box of gold envelopes and made his way back inside.

After he called everyone’s attention, the bustling restaurant was suddenly still and everyone was hanging on Ferrer’s every word.

“I need a minute, Tiffany come over here,” said Ferrer, calling Bender and two dishwashers into the dining room. “This is National Golden Envelope Day. We’re a large-scale kindness organization and we’re doing random acts of kindness.”

Bender and the dishwashers opened their envelopes and found $250 cash waiting for them.

“Are you kidding?” Bender asked with a look of shock.

Ray Stubbs, who had been washing dishes at the restaurant for about eight months, said it was a “good day.”

“It can help pay a little on the bills. I ain’t lying,” Stubbs said.

Ferrer then announced that he would pay the tab for everyone in the café. He and a group of volunteers would then spend the rest of the day giving away envelopes totaling $10,000.

“At one point in time, I was thinking about accumulating things. And when I made a personal commitment to giving, my life changed,” Ferrer said.

Like when Ferrer decided to do 40 random acts of kindness.

“It was just something I wanted to do,” Ferrer recalled. “Then people kept asking me when I’m going to do it again, and I said, ‘I’m not turning 40 again.’”

But he realized people wanted to see more kindness.

“They wanted to know how they could help, so we created the platform,” he said.

The platform is Mailbox Money. Ferrer calls it a nontraditional nonprofit for nontraditional givers.

“One thing that makes us unique is we’re not needs-based. We believe everyone deserves kindness,” the founder said.

Mailbox Money relies on what Ferrer calls “micro-philanthropy.” “Our members give a little so together we can give a lot.”

Ferrer said giving is random, so some may really need the money and others may not, but they might be motivated to become a member of the foundation and get involved.

Bender said she falls somewhere in between. She was in a car crash recently and had to replace her car and said the money will come in handy.

“It’s still sinking in. I can’t believe it happened,” she said.

Zak Cole and Rheya Tanner were in the restaurant when Ferrer made his announcement.

“These guys showed up with cameras. We thought it was going to be a wedding proposal but he ended up buying everyone breakfast,” Cole said with a laugh.

Tanner added it was “a whole big spectacle.”

The couple said they’ll be donating back to the nonprofit.

So will Mike Favier who stopped Ferrer in the parking lot to thank him.

“Very nice. It made my day,” Favier said. “I’m going to get online and start donating.”

Ferrer said that’s the point, to give people an easy way to be part of a bigger movement.

“We go out and do all the things people may want to do but don’t have the time to do,” Ferrer said. “What if what we’re doing achieves what I think it can? The world can change.”

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