Something mysterious was going on in Washington, Pennsylvania, and Jolie Welling had heard all about it. But it wasn’t until she went out to dinner for her daughter’s birthday that she was personally targeted by the strangers responsible for the unusual occurrences – and the incident ended up bringing her to tears.
Welling is a mom from Pennsylvania, and her story starts back in September 2017, when she decided to treat her daughter to a birthday meal out. Little Sofia was turning six years old, and Welling naturally wanted to make sure that her girl had a great time on her special day.
That’s what led Welling to book a table at a nearby restaurant for the occasion. The mom hadn’t planned on celebrating with a small party and just a couple of friends, though; 16 people in all would be in attendance, including the birthday girl herself.
And Welling chose the Washington branch of Applebee’s as the venue for Sofia’s party. The night itself, meanwhile, would eventually be a truly special one – but perhaps not in the way that Welling or her daughter had imagined.
Indeed, something happened on the evening of Sofia’s birthday that she or her mom likely never anticipated. And what occurred that night was so remarkable that Welling took to Facebook afterwards to share her story. Her heartwarming account was subsequently picked up by local news networks.
Furthermore, the news reports focused on what happened once little Sofia’s birthday celebration meal was over. When Welling asked for the table’s check, the Applebee’s server wouldn’t give it to her. And the reason why brought tears to the mom’s eyes.
Specifically, server Samantha Powell told Welling that the bill had already been paid for. No member of the birthday party had stumped up the cash to do so, however; instead, two generous strangers had quietly covered everyone’s meals. And even Powell nearly teared up while recounting the act.
Understandably, the party of 16 were shocked at the news. They also kept asking Powell who was responsible. “They were like ‘Oh my god. Who? Who?’” the waitress recalled when speaking to CBS Pittsburgh.
But Powell had been sworn to secrecy. No matter how many times those at Sofia’s celebrations asked, she would not reveal the individual behind the heartwarming gesture. “They were looking around and wanted to know who it was, but I would not tell them,” the server said.
That’s because an anonymous man had gone to Powell and secretly asked for Welling’s bill, despite the large number of diners in her group. And Powell realized that it wouldn’t be right to point him out when he didn’t want to be identified.
But even though Welling never found out who was responsible for paying the bill, she was still overwhelmed by what had happened that evening. She would even later take to Facebook and post about the incident. “Thank you to the person that took care of the bill tonight at Applebee’s in Washington!” she wrote.
Welling’s social media post continued, “This person paid for the whole party of 16. I have never had this happen before and it brought tears to everyone’s eyes.” Then, once various media outlets picked up the story, she commented further about the event.
In October 2017 Welling told Today, for example, that she would sometimes hear about similar things happening to other people. Nevertheless, she was “so shocked” that she was the latest recipient of a stranger’s generosity. “What better way than for my daughter Sofia’s sixth birthday?” Welling added.
And the incident didn’t just provide a pleasant surprise for Welling – it was also a welcome lesson for her daughter. Indeed, Welling would tell Today that she was happy that her daughter was able “to see the goodness in people” as a result of the random act of kindness at Applebee’s.
Aside from that, it reassured Welling herself that caring people still existed in the world. But as it happens, Sofia’s birthday didn’t mark the first occasion that the anonymous couple had dipped into their own pockets to pay the bill for a stranger.
In fact, staff at the Applebee’s restaurant said that the pair had been in before and sporadically picked up checks for other tables – as often as three times a month. Even so, Powell and assistant manager Bernie Lewis refused to identify the mystery benefactors to CBS Pittsburgh.
However, Powell did disclose that the couple were local business owners. And the reason why they occasionally paid for other people’s meals was truly heartwarming. According to Powell, one of the two had simply said to her, “I grew up poor, and now I’m not.”
Another lucky person who had once been on the receiving end of the couple’s kindness was Darla Pepper-Miler. She had been out with some church choir friends when their bill was randomly settled by a stranger – and, understandably, she had found herself touched by the gesture.
And Pepper-Miller told CBS Pittsburgh how she felt grateful to the couple for bringing positivity into a world full of “turmoil, protests and hatred.” She added, “It’s good to know that there are people that care about each other and give, pay it forward.”
Indeed, Welling herself has claimed that she will be similarly altruistic in the future, thus continuing the anonymous couple’s legacy of kindness. “We plan to pay it forward and surprise a family when we go out to eat,” she told Today.