JANESVILLE, Wis. - Faith Community Church's youth group gave their restaurant servers something to be thankful for the night before Thanksgiving.
Pizza Hut servers Maggie Tracey and Rachel Carter said they didn't know what to expect when a group of 50 students came into the restaurant Wednesday night.
"It was a lot of people," Tracey said. "I did think like, ‘Oh, we're probably not going to get that much of a tip.'"
But the youth group had something special they were planning. For about a month, the students had been collecting money to give away at their annual night-before-Thanksgiving group meal.
"There were some teens that gave a lot of money, and there were some that could only give a couple bucks," youth pastor Michael T. Powers said.
But little by little, the money added up to a grand total of $1,304. Most of that money came from the students, with only a little help from adults who wanted to get involved.
"That does my heart well because that was the idea, for teens to do something outside of themselves," Powers said.
The youth group prayed for the servers who would be receiving the tip.
"I firmly believed that God took us to exactly the right people," Powers said.
When he pulled the two women aside to present the money, they say they had no idea what was about to happen.
"I think Maggie said like, ‘Maybe they have cake?'" Carter said. "We didn't know what to expect."
But when Powers handed the women the stack of bills, they were blown away.
"I literally couldn't believe it," Tracey said.
"I still can't really wrap my head around that that happened," Carter said.
The two women said the money was a huge blessing. Tracey is getting married in June, and Carter is expecting a baby in January.
"It was amazing that both of us have big things coming up in our lives and surprise! We got big money to help with that," Carter said.
The youth group gave away the money along with a message.
"We just wanted to make a difference in people's lives at this time," Powers said. "But really most important, we wanted them to know that there is a God that absolutely loves and adores them."
The women say they now feel the need to pay it forward.
"I definitely feel like it spoke to me in a way that I need to go out and help people," Carter said.
The servers say there was more to the night than just the big tip. They were also thankful for the way the students behaved.
"They helped carry tables and clean up and helped brought all the dishes back to us," Carter said. "All we had to do was wipe the tables after they left, and that's pretty much all we did."
"The whole night, I said to my fiancé, that I could not believe how nice that everybody genuinely was," Tracey said. "They all had smiles, and they helped throughout the night. It was just amazing."
Powers said he hopes the servers walked away with a new perspective.
"From the beginning to the end, we wanted them to see that the image that a lot of teenagers get these days about it being all about themselves is just simply not true," he said.
The youth group made sure the money from the regular tip went to the cooks and other people working behind the scenes to help put their meal together. This is the fourth year the youth group has given away a big holiday tip. Powers said he plans to continue to do it every year but might have to start finding restaurants outside of Rock County to go to as more people learn about what they do.
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