TEMPLE TERRACE — It was “Spirit Night” at Chick-fil-A Temple Terrace, a time when a portion of the restaurant’s proceeds was earmarked for the youth ministry program at First Baptist Church of Temple Terrace.
The recent goodwill gesture was representative of the store management team’s once-a-month program meant to benefit nearby nonprofit organizations that include community churches and schools.
But this particular evening unfolded unlike any other before it.
“This was a first-hand experience for all our team members of the goodness of humanity,” said Chick-fil-A Temple Terrace Marketing Director Carmen Fisher.
It began when Cherie Miller, a Temple Terrace resident and member of the First Baptist church, ordered dinner for her family at the restaurant’s drive-thru window. Her 12-year-old twins are involved in the church’s youth ministry, the beneficiary of the funds raised.
“It occurred to me to bless the person behind me by paying for his order, too,” she said.
Little did she know the chain reaction she had created.
When she got home and realized she’s forgotten to order chicken nuggets for her son, she immediately headed back to the restaurant, where she was greeted with open arms.
While she was gone, the 10 patrons who followed her at the drive-thru had picked up the tab for the cost of the orders placed by the people in line behind them.
She later learned a total of 37 drive-thru patrons had followed her initial gesture. When she returned to place a second order, once again she paid for the person’s order behind her.
“It was a day where one random act of kindness had a rippling effect that none of us could have imagined,” Fisher said. “We can all be reminded by this that we should never underestimate the power of a single act of kindness.”
Storeowner Denis Spradin agreed.
“We are honored to have been part of such an outpouring of human kindness,” he said.
Miller said she believes that those involved were responding to the love of God.
“It makes me really, really happy to know that so many people had smiles on their faces,” said Miller.
“I believe that all goodness comes from God and I hope people experienced that,” she added.
Chelsea Singleton, a team leader at the Chick-fil-A Temple Terrace restaurant at 5302 E. Fowler Ave., called it “cool” to witness the joy that permeated the eatery, both inside and out.
“Everyone here was just like in shock,” she said. “It just put everyone is such a great mood.”
One person, she noted, enjoyed a free $5 meal compliments of the patron in the car in front of him and didn’t think twice about picking up a $20 tab for items ordered by the driver behind him.
Cherie’s husband, John, who learned about the effect of his wife’s good deeds from her and later read about it on the restaurant’s Facebook page, said he wasn’t surprised by her actions.
“She has a good heart and is an optimistic person,” he said. “She likes to do the right thing to help others.”
J.P. Clouse, youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Temple Terrace, was delighted both by Chick-fil-A’s willingness to host the fundraiser and Cherie’s acts of kindness that generated $150 for the ministry’s summer camp.
“It was such a cool thing and because of it, 10 to 15 kids will get to go to camp,” he said. “We’re also proud that we live in a community where people care about one another.”
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.