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Iowa good Samaritan donates $82,350 in local gift cards to every household in small town

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An anonymous donor gifted $150 in gift cards to every household in an Iowa town of about 1,400 people, hoping to lift their spirits during the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlham Mayor Jeff Lillie received a call on March 26 asking how a donor -- who wished to remain anonymous -- could help the town’s economy, according to reports.

The donor initially wanted to buy 100 gift cards from three local businesses. The person called back two more times to bump the order, eventually offering to buy more than 500 gift cards for residents there, the New York Daily News reported.

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Earlham is a small town some 30 miles west of Des Moines, with about 1,450 residents.

“I told him, at 500, you’re darn near giving a gift card to every single household in Earlham,” Lillie told CNN. “When I told him there were 549 households in town, he said ‘Done.” And that was it. I was ecstatic because it made sure everyone would get a card.”

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A week later, everyone in the town received not just one gift card, but a gift card from each of three local businesses: West Side Bar and Grill; Hometown Market, a grocery store, and Trostel’s Broken Branch, a restaurant and coffee shop.

The donation added a major lift of roughly $27,000 to each of the businesses. The good Samaritan ended up purchasing $82,350 in gift cards.

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“As the mayor of a small town, making the decision to close our community centers and city hall and our library and all of the other bad decisions that we’ve been forced to make -- and then here’s this really great thing," Lillie told the Des Moines Register. "It just tore down my walls."