Jenni Ware of Redwood City, CA, knew it was going to be a crazy day the minute she woke up one morning in August 2009. She had a ton of errands to get through and just a few hours to do them before heading out of town on a business trip the next day. The market was one of her last stops, and as she reached into her handbag to pay for $207 worth of groceries Jenni, 46, discovered that her wallet was missing. "I completely freaked out," she recalls. "After the day I'd had, it was the last straw."
"Can I help?" asked the stranger behind her in line. Carolee Hazard, 45, who lives in Menlo Park, CA, offered to pay the total if Jenni would send her a check later. At the end of her rope, Jenni accepted, and the two exchanged information. "It was a knee-jerk reaction," says Carolee of her kind deed. "But on the way home, I was vacillating between feeling good and feeling really stupid. Then I thought, I did the right thing even if I never get the money back, and forgot about it."
Retracing her steps, Jenni found her wallet at another store, and when she got home she immediately wrote a check, rounding the figure up to $300. She put it in the mail with a note urging Carolee to use the additional money for a massage.
Stunned, Carolee asked her Facebook friends what she should do with the extra $93. "One suggested I send it to Second Harvest, a food bank, which I thought was a good idea." Carolee posted her intention and added that she was planning to match the donation. "Within three hours, my Facebook friends had donated $600, and by the next day it was $1,000," she says. "It started to go viral. An 8-year-old neighbor gave me 93Â¢ from her allowance! I couldn't believe it."
Carolee was so excited that she called Jenni while she was still out of town on business and told her how the "massage" money had grown. "I was humbled and thrilled," recalls Jenni, who posted the story on her own Facebook page, prompting her friends to donate as well. "They all said that they wanted to be a part of this."
Since so many people were eager to give money, Carolee decided to organize the outpouring of good will and started The $93 Club on Facebook. To date, the club has brought in $128,121 and 576 pounds of food for Second Harvest. That translates to 256,686 meals—enough to feed 60 families of four three square meals a day for a year. The effort has been so successful, in fact, that Second Harvest created the Out of the Barrel Award in Carolee's honor—a special award that will be presented to a deserving person each year for his or her outstanding innovation and creativity in drive efforts, according to Crystal Ulrich, associate director of Annual Fund and Operations at Second Harvest. "It's clear that Carolee follows her heart and cares about her community," says Ulrich. And Jenni couldn't agree more: "I'm so glad to have gained a wonderful new friend who thinks the way I do about helping the world," she says.
For Carolee, the real reward is knowing the effect her selfless decision has had on others. She's heard from people all over the country who have been similarly motivated to donate to their own local food banks. "This has taught me that when you put good out into the world, it does ripple," says Carolee. "One simple act really can inspire thousands."
To donate to The $93 Club and also find other local food banks around the country, go to Facebook.com/93DollarClub.