Moving America Forward

How an Everyday Customer Gave This Waitress the Tip of Her Life

April 24, 2014
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How an Everyday Customer Gave This Waitress the Tip of Her Life
AlexRaths/iStock Photo
And it's a gift that'll keep on giving.

Sometimes it pays to be friendly, and former waitress Melissa Mainier learned that lesson four years ago while serving at the Peachtree Restaurant and Lounge in Harrisburg, Penn.

Mainier, now a nurse at Pinnacle Health’s General Osteopathic Hospital, found a Good Samaritan in her regular customer Benjamin Olewine III while working her way through college. Olewine first struck up a friendship with the then-server in 2010, when he learned Mainier was saddled with student loans and waitressing to get by.

Olewine, a local entrepreneur, decided to give Mainier the tip of lifetime and offer to pay her tuition bills. Mainier declined his offer twice before finally agreeing to let him help. After sending Olewine her tuition bill, he returned to the restaurant the next day with a check in tow.

The now-nurse estimates he’s spent about $30,000 on her education, funding every school expense ranging from tuition to textbooks.

“My dad was so happy for me,” said Mainier, whose father passed away two years ago. “Both my parents were just so happy for me. I’m sure they would want to help me if they could.”

MORE: This Special-Needs Teen Gave Herself and Her Favorite Charity the Birthday Gift of a Lifetime

Mainier is not the first student Olewine has assisted. The local philanthropist contends his family has long been generous in the food and service industry. His father, who owned a grocery store during the Great Depression, often helped struggling customers. The karma must have paid off, leading to a successful business expansion that was handed down to Olewine to run before it was sold to Sysco Foods, where he now serves as Chairman Emeritus.

Olewine has carried his family’s charitable tradition by donating $1 million to the Culinary Arts School at HACC at Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, where Mainier received her associate’s degree in nursing. Last year the PinnacleHealth Spine, Bone & Joint Institute recognized his generosity by naming a wing after him—the same wing where Mainier works.

He continues to support Mainier as she works towards a bachelor’s degree from Drexel University, and encourages the young nurse to continue her education by earning a master’s degree.

It seems Mainier’s big tip is not so much the money as it is the lesson of giving back.

“I’m going to continue to pay it forward,” she told Ellen’s Good News, “for the rest of my life.”

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