Oh, how I love Fridays! They lead into the best two days of the entire week - Saturday and Sunday! And, what better way to begin a Friday than by sharing a smile.
Woman Goes From Waitressing to Nursing School -- With a Generous Customer's Help
Waiting tables isn't such a bad job if you're serving generous customers like Benjamin Olewine III.
Melissa Mainier from Harrisburg, Pa., is currently a nurse at Pinnacle Health's General Osteopathic Hospital, but it wasn't too long ago that she was serving patrons at Peachtree Restaurant and Lounge. Her life changed when regular customer Olewine, a local philanthropist, decided to take a chance on her.
The two were engaged in some chitchat in 2010 when Mainier mentioned that she was working her way through college and had massive student loans. "He said, 'I'd love to help you.' I was like, help me? What is he talking about?" she tells the Good News blog. "He elaborated, and he said if I needed help financially, he would be happy to help."
Mainier was skeptical and turned him down – twice. But the third time Olewine extended his offer, Mainier took him up on it and sent him her tuition bill. The next day, he returned with the bill and a check for the full amount. He went on to pay every single expense relating to her studies, from tuition to books. Mainier estimates that he's paid about
"[My parents] were both so shocked when I told them, they couldn't believe it," says Mainier, who adds that her father passed away two years ago. "My dad was so happy for me. Both my parents were just so happy for me. I'm sure they would want to help me if they could."
Olewine is the third of four generations to be involved in the food service industry and continue his family's tradition of
giving back to the community. His father ran a grocery store in the middle of the Great Depression and would often provide food for those in need. The business grew over the years and was handed over to Olewine to run before it was
consolidated and sold to Sysco Foods in the late '80s.
In 2005, Olewine donated $1 million to the culinary arts program at HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College, the same school where Mainier completed her associate's degree in nursing. He's also donated to Harrisburg's PinnacleHealth Spine, Bone & Joint Institutes, where a wing was named after him last year. And, as luck would have it, that's the wing where Mainier now works as a nurse.
She is currently working toward a bachelor's degree from Drexel University. Olewine hopes she continues her education and earns a master's -- and he's more than happy to cover her expenses.
And Mainier isn't the first student Olewine has helped. She says there are others – including another server from the
Peachtree Restaurant – though she might be the first stranger he's approached with the offer.
Olewine's kindness is not lost on this grateful nurse. "I'm going to continue to pay it forward," she insists, "for the
rest of my life."
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