By Will McGuirk, www.thestar.com
Trevor Algar, co-owner of Justice Burger in downtown Oshawa, thought he was being summoned to court when a man, who had been sitting in the restaurant alone, came up to the counter and handed him a slim envelope.
Algar wasn’t being served, but justice was. Inside was a letter and $500 in cash.
The letter was written in response to Justice Burgers’ “giveback” campaign, Algar says. A donation of five dollars will buy a stranger a burger in advance. In the 60 days since the pay-it-forward initiative was launched, 500 burgers have been handed out.
“We are doing something that allows everyone to be involved,” says Algar. “You can come in with five bucks and feed someone else . . . who might be hungry, someone who is hungrier than I am.”
How does it work? Your $5 donation buys a coupon that’s pinned to a board near the cash register. A stranger in need can then take the coupon, hand it to the cashier, and get a basic burger, no questions asked.
“It’s not just rich people who are doing this,” Algar adds. “It’s students, it’s other homeless, buying for those even less fortunate.”
Algar says the anonymous donor who had come in last Monday, a busy Family Day, had been moved by the program. After his meal he left, but came back later with the cash and the letter, describing a time in his life when he was homeless.
“I would have to beg for money to buy a burger from McDonald’s every day and it was humiliating for me, but my pride was not worth the hunger pains,” he wrote.
“I would say generally anyone asking for anything is putting their heart on their sleeve and hoping for a good reception,” Algar says. “Having to do that for every meal — I can’t imagine what that is like.”
The idea for the campaign, he said, was derided by other business owners who suggested that those who frequent shelters and soup kitchens downtown would take advantage of the generosity.
But Algar says it hasn’t only been destitute people using the coupons — once it was a lawyer from the nearby Ontario Court of Justice who had forgotten their wallet.
Meanwhile, the board, already covered in 60 pre-purchased burger coupons, is at capacity, and the $500 donation bought an additional 100 burgers for the giveback campaign.
We’re going to go out and get a bigger board,” Algar says.