Donors inspired by kindness after their own mass shooting pay it forward with free coffee for Dayton

Published: Thursday, October 03, 2019 @ 10:51 AM

Anonymous benefactor who lives near Pittsburgh mass shooting site raised money for act of kindness in both Dayton and El Paso.

Oregon District coffee shop Reza’s Dayton will offer free coffee on Saturday courtesy of donors who live near the site of last fall’s Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting who want to “pay it forward” for the Dayton and El Paso communities recovering from their own mass shootings.

A benefactor who helped raise more than $1,000 from Pittsburgh-area donors and made arrangements with Reza’s Dayton to offer the free coffee said he wishes to remain anonymous. He told this news outlet in a phone interview that he launched the effort because of a similar act arranged for his community after the Oct. 27, 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue that left 11 dead and seven injured.

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“Someone from outside of the city paid our community what might seem like a small act of kindness, but it was one that had a tremendous impact,” said the benefactor, who lives around the corner from the synagogue. 

The Aug. 4 shooting in the Oregon District left 10 dead, including the shooter, who was killed by police.

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Audria Al Maki — founder of Reza’s Dayton, which opened in June at 438 Wayne Ave. — said she was skeptical when the benefactor first contacted her.

Reza’s Dayton at 438 Wayne Avenue in Dayton.(Mark Fisher)

“At first, I thought it was some kind of scam, but when I called him I realized he was very sincere, and I actually cried,” Maki said. “It was right after the shooting, and I think we were all in shock. I remember watching and being horrified when Tree of Life happened.”

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“I think this act of kindness shows how close we all really are as human beings. We saw a lot of hugs and many people buying coffee for the person coming after them at the cafe in those first couple of weeks after. So many people who live and work in the Oregon District come to our cafe every day. I am really happy to be able to facilitate this act of kindness for them.”

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Maki said she will post a letter from the benefactor in the coffee shop on Saturday. Here is the full text of the letter:

Dear Reza’s patron, 

I live in Pittsburgh, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of the city, right around the corner from the Tree of Life synagogue. In the wake of the terrible mass shooting that took place there on October 27, someone from outside of the city paid our community what might seem like a small act of kindness, but it was one that had a tremendous impact: Contacting a local coffee shop and paying for coffee for the day. 

Now, nearly a year after that event, I want to pay it forward. Thanks to the generosity of over 30 donors, I have made equal donations to Reza’s Downtown in Dayton and The Coffee Box in El Paso. While it is tragic that we are connected because of tragedy, I am hoping this small act connects us in a different way and provides a small respite from the grieving still going on in all of our cities. 

My only ask is that if you feel comfortable doing so, take a picture of your coffee and send it to compassionatecoffee2019@gmail.com along with your permission to post it on the fundraising site and social media (Facebook at Twitter). You don’t have to include your names or a message if you don’t want to – a picture is indeed worth 1,000 words. 

Please know that you are not alone as you heal as a community. 

All the best, 

A coffee lover from Pittsburgh

In a phone interview this morning, Thursday Oct. 3, the benefactor said his solicitation generated contributions from 30 donors, who gave amounts ranging from $5 to $100. He will share any letters he receives with those donors.

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“I want nothing more than to never have to do this again,” he said. “But I think the reason it spoke to people, in times like these, it’s almost impossible to figure out what to do, how to help.”

“This was a very simple way to help give those people who are going through something unimaginable a brief respite, and perhaps something to put a smile on their face, even if briefly.”

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The man said he hopes to visit Reza’s Dayton, and The Coffee Box in El Paso, someday.

Reza’s Dayton is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.