PERRY — At Amy’s Downtown Diner in Perry, what started out as a single act of kindness has blossomed into the distribution of more than 100 free meals to individuals throughout the community.
The diner, 115 S. Main St., is closed to dine-in customers in accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “stay home, stay safe” order, but owner Amy Buck says that hasn’t stopped customers from donating money to treat others in town.
The movement began March 25, according to Buck, when two women covered the cost of four lasagna dinners with the request they be delivered to people in need.
With help from diner employee Ali Delau, Buck delivered the lasagna dinners to four senior citizens, and the gesture was so well received it prompted the daughter of one of the recipients to cover the cost of four additional meals.
Upon posting the details of the kind exchange to the diner’s Facebook page, a ripple effect of donations ensued, according to Buck.
“We originally started to help out the seniors because they’re not leaving their homes (due to the coronavirus), but now we have so many meals donated,” Buck said. “I keep thinking, ‘OK, they’re going to dwindle away,’ but they keep going and going and going. It’s great. It’s a challenge for us to see who we can take the next free meals to.”
So far, the diner has delivered meals — including lasagna, burgers and tacos — to senior citizens, businesses and the Perry Fire Department, among others recipients, according to Buck.
Mike Lorenc, a senior manager for Google Ann Arbor who frequently visits the diner, recently donated $200 to the establishment as part of the pay-it-forward initiative.
“I’ve known Amy since the start of the diner and I think it was a great, great project that she put together,” Lorenc said Wednesday. “It makes three times the impact from my perspective: I’m helping a diner to stay open, I’m helping the people that work there to still get some sort of income and then being able to donate food which then goes to families in need seemed like a great idea.”
After making the donation, Lorenc reached out to some of his colleagues at Google regarding the initiative and Tuesday his coworkers donated an additional $400 to Amy’s Downtown Diner.
For Buck, who feared her business would suffer after converting to carryout only amid the coronavirus outbreak, the support has been reassuring.
“It was scary (to close the doors),” Buck said. “I can’t believe the support we have in this community. We are doing really well, better than I expected.”
Delau, who’s delivered more than 50 meals in the past week, said the effort has been worthwhile.
“It feels so good knowing we can help them,” Delau said. “We have a lot of seniors that come in here. It’s nice that we can still see them and make sure they’re doing OK. I love doing it.”
While the initiative started in Perry, Lorenc believes it may soon spread.
“I’ve heard from at least five people from our offices that liked the idea. They’re actually thinking about reaching out to the restaurants from their hometowns to see if they can do something similar,” Lorenc said. “What Amy’s diner has done, not only does it have the immediate impact in Perry, the idea now hopefully will kind of spread to more places throughout Michigan or broader.”
Amy’s Downtown Diner is currently open — offering its full menu and daily specials — from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday through Monday.
To place an order, call (517) 697-0295. For more information, visit Facebook/amysdowntowndiner.