Putting Food on the Table
Imagine you're a pizza delivery driver. You wake up one morning, and the world outside your window seems pretty normal; as far as you're concerned, it seems like you're about to embark on a pretty regular day. You get your first work call, but when you reach the delivery location, you see something that turns your entire world upside down - indeed, once the day is over, nothing will ever be the same again.
A Personal Tragedy
When pizza delivery drivers Angela Nguyen and Sarah Hughes noticed something inside a customer’s trailer, they had to act fast, but before we get to that, let’s start at the beginning. Angela lives in Ham Lake, a city in Minnesota. Before she began working for one of the local Domino Pizza chains in 2013, she was doing something very different: before 2013, Angela worked for Minnesota Visiting Nurses but she practically had to change jobs following a terrible personal tragedy…
Nursing Her Own Daughter
Speaking to The Atlantic in 2016, Angela discussed her past as a nurse. “I was a housekeeper for people with HIV and AIDS. When my department was shut down, I was offered a new role in a hospice…but because I’d had a daughter who had died while I was with the Minnesota Visiting Nurses, I just couldn’t cope with watching other people suffer. To work with people who were dying…the thought of it was far too hard. So I left.”
Back to Work
A few months had passed and Angela decided to work part-time: she’d been looking after her grandchildren regularly, so it made sense to work for the same people as her eldest daughter Sarah, so they might be able to keep their current routine. “I wanted to carry on helping Sarah,” Angela recalls. “I was hired by Domino’s and Sarah and I worked opposite hours. It was flexible. I watched her kids while she worked, then she watched them when I was working.”
Just a Regular Customer
Angela soon began to settle into her new role and things in her life appeared to be settling back into place. She started to become particularly familiar with a male customer who lived on the outskirts of Anoka County, Minnesota – this man’s name was Lee Haase. Speaking to USA Today in December 2015, Angela recalls: “He used to make an order every Saturday. Around 10.15 am, you are going to get an order from Lee.” Then, one day, everything changed…
Tragedy Strikes Again
It was in late 2015 when Lee fell victim to a series of catastrophic events that would leave the poor man completely and utterly heartbroken – first, the elderly customer’s home was severely and irreparably damaged by a storm; it was rendered uninhabitable and he would have to move. Secondly, his beloved son tragically died in a freak snowmobile accident. Soon after these events, Lee was forced to move into a tiny trailer near to where he used to live.
Who Is Lee Haase?
A 76-year-old pensioner, Lee Haase suddenly found himself facing what was certain to be a particularly hard winter after the brutal storm that destroyed his home – the retiree had been living a very humble life but was thankful for what little he had, but now he had even less; he was surviving on a fixed social security income (some claim he’d been eating just one meal a week) and the caravan destroyed by the storm had been his home for several years.
A Twist of Fate
We make hundreds of small decisions every day and it’s incredible to think what some of those decisions eventually lead to; take the decision Lee made to treat himself to that pizza on the weekends: had he not ordered those pizzas, he would not have met either Sarah or Angela and it’s scary to think what might have been – but we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, and unfortunately, things were only getting worse with regards to his living conditions…
From Bad to Worse
As if he hadn’t already been through more than enough, unfortunately for Lee, the trailer he was now living in had no plumbing or heat. It didn’t have any electricity. Of course, this left him in a very vulnerable position, and winter was coming. However, hope arrived in the shape of Sarah – when she saw the conditions in which Lee was living, she immediately told her mom. Being the caring person she is, Angela didn’t like what she heard at all…
A Sad Situation
Needless to say, when Sarah went into further details about Lee’s poor living conditions, her mother Angela was shocked; as has already been mentioned, Lee’s tiny trailer didn’t have any heaters so he was permanently cold, and because there was no sewage system, Lee had no choice but to deal with any waste himself. In addition, Lee wasn’t able to keep the place as clean as he would have liked so all in all, it was far from an ideal situation.
Once a nurse always a nurse; Angela immediately sprang into action. “I thought to myself we have got to do something and so, we did,” she said to USA Today. “We cannot let a fellow human being live in these conditions.” Taking everything into account, the first thing Angela did was purchase a heater for Lee’s trailer and after that, she decided the next step was to go a little bit further when she delivered his pizza on Saturday’s mornings…
A Ray of Sunshine
Angela explains that because Lee was elderly and therefore couldn’t get Meals on Wheels, ‘the pizzas were what he would live on during the weekends’. She began bringing few extra things to help him. “I looked forward to delivering things to him and being that small ray of sunshine every Saturday morning. I would always ask him how he was and sometimes stop at the store to grab a doughnut or coffee before heading to his trailer with the pizza.”
A Helping Hand
But that was only the beginning, and Angela didn’t stop there; Lee’s welfare was always on her mind and she continued looking for other ways to help him. “In no way can somebody, anybody, live in those conditions and be okay with it,” she explained in a YouTube video produced by Humankind in 2015; Humankind is a channel created by USA Today. “When you see something like that, you just get involved and do what you have to do.”
Far & Wide
Angela took things to a whole new level by setting up a GoFundMe page for Lee, which saw people donating money from all over the globe. “Money came in from everywhere, and we even got contributions from Australia,” she told USA Today. Around two months after it had first been set up, the GoFundMe page had already raised an incredible amount of money and on top of that, people moved by Lee’s situation were contributing in different – but equally – generous ways…
The Kindness of Strangers
It’s amazing how helpful and generous people can be, and as soon as Angela started the GoFundMe campaign on behalf of Lee, community members did everything they could to help; some contributed money while others, like a local construction company, offered to build Lee a small home on his property – incredible! Others bought Lee food while volunteers, electricians, and painters also got in touch with Angela and offered their services. Domino’s also played their part by making a generous $2,000 donation!
Whether you’re the richest person in the world or the poorest, there will always be a certain type of person who is more than willing to donate to charities and worthy causes regardless of their financial situation – fortunately, there are many of these ‘types’ of people in the world and quite incredibly, only two months after Angela created the GoFundMe page, $32,000 had been raised. Now, it was time to begin the next part of Angela’s ambitious plan…
A Bigger Plan
So what should someone do with $32,000? Using the money very wisely, Angela purchased her favorite customer a brand new house – and as if that wasn’t already incredible enough, the community rallied round and contributed all the furnishings. Humankind created a brand new YouTube video (‘Pizza Delivery Driver Delivers New Home to Homeless Man’) in order to capture Lee’s expression when he realized what Angela and the community had done for him: needless to say, he was lost for words.
This is the moment Lee, with Angela by his side, was embraced by Sarah and a number of local volunteers after he walked through the front door of his new home. With Christmas fast approaching the room is decorated with a beautiful Christmas tree and Sarah is tearfully telling Lee: “Do you remember when this all began, I swore to you all of us were going to help you?” She was true to her word. Again, Lee was completely overwhelmed.
Joy, Hope & Love
When Lee was finally able to speak, his words were pure, simple and honest: “It’s wonderful,” he claimed. “I couldn’t be more thankful to those who are doing this.” Angela then gave Lee a tour of his new home, showing him there was more than enough food stored in the kitchen. Amazingly, Lee’s new bedroom is roughly the same size as his old trailer, while some words above his bed read as follows: ‘Joy, hope, love, peace, believe.’ Words to live by!
A Final Message
The Humankind video concludes with Lee and his new pals singing Christmas carols together before Angela steps forward and gives a final, beautiful message about recent events and what it has meant to the entire community: “This wasn’t only for Lee. Every single person here benefited…every single one of us enjoyed doing this.” It only seemed right that after Lee was shown around his new home and given a second to catch his breath, it was Angela who had the last say.
You’d think because Lee now had a new roof above his head and was settled, Angela would take a well-deserved rest and start concentrating a little more on her own wants and needs, but this was far from the case: only further emphasizing what a good person she is, she decided what she and the community had done for Lee was only the beginning and she quickly decided to start doing incredible things for some of her other Domino’s regulars…
A New Issue
They say that actions speak louder than words and in Angela’s case, she is certainly a woman of action! Soon after Lee was settled, she decided to begin helping another unfortunate customer of hers, who, just like Lee Haase, had fallen on very difficult times. “Another regular customer of mine…her beloved daughter recently had surgery for Crohn’s disease…she was very, very ill and her mom was out of work right at the same time,” Angela explained to The Atlantic.
A New Routine
Angela explains that just as she did with Lee, she started a GoFundMe campaign for the mother and her child. “Soon after I set it up, we were getting enough contributions to allow the mother to relax a little. There was enough money to allow her to remain at home and look after her daughter. She didn’t need to worry about returning to work for now.” And as for Lee, well, his typical routine changed once he entered his new house…
A Former Customer
Once things were more settled, Angela looked back at the entire situation and had the following to say about Lee, who’s now a former customer of hers: “Now that he’s got his own stove, refrigerator and a microwave, Lee doesn’t order any pizzas anymore. He stood out for a very long time because he ordered a lot.” Angela smiled as she concluded her observation: “Yeah, he stood out for quite some time.” Still, Lee and Angela will never forget each other…
A Very Happy Ending
…There are other stories of delivery drivers becoming friendly and familiar with their best customers, but the bond between Lee and Angela is a special one indeed. Not many people can display the pure generosity shown by Angela Nguyen and her daughter Sarah, the Domino’s Pizza workers from Ham Lake, Minnesota. These two incredible people provided Lee Haase with something far more substantial and important than a pizza; in December 2015, they gave this man a new place to call home!
For Angela and her daughter, it was never just about delivering pizzas and simply saying “That’ll be $17.95.” The job allowed them to meet people from all walks of life, and in certain circumstances, as was the case with Lee Haase, they were able to help people in the community who needed it most – let’s not forget, when Angela and Sarah decided to help Lee, he was living in a 12-foot long camper that was falling apart: just like him.
Never Give Up
Last we forget, Lee’s home was then severely damaged in a storm and he lost his son in a freak accident; numbed by grief, he didn’t have the energy to make repairs – or ask for help. Asked how he planned to survive the winter, Lee was honest: “I’m not sure yet.” At this stage, he had no plumbing or running water! Angela claimed Lee told her he’d “pretty much given up on life.” But she refused to give up on him.
Whatever it Takes
When Angela heard this man – who, despite being a regular customer, was still practically a stranger to her – was ready to give up on everything, she simply said to herself that this was “unacceptable.” She decided right there and then that no one deserves to live in the dreadful conditions Lee was living in, and that’s when she decided to act. “You step in,” claimed Angela. “You step in and you do what you’ve got to do.” The rest is history!
Above & Beyond
Unwilling to let Lee go through even one more night feeling cold, Angela immediately purchased a new heater for him, using her own money – but she knew this would not be anywhere near enough, and that it would be a long road before Lee would get back on his feet. She was only earning a humble salary, and she didn’t have the means to do much more on her own. So she and her daughter Sara came up with a plan…
We Need Your Help
When Angela Nguyen set up a GoFundMe campaign on Lee Haase’s behalf, she never would have expected, not even in a million years, the response she got! Receiving donations from far and wide, the money came pouring in; there were even donations from Australia! People all over the world were desperate to help this man who had been through so much. Angela was amazed by people’s kindness and two months later, Lee got the shock of his life…
New & Improved
The GoFundMe campaign raised $32,000 – which meant a new trailer home for Lee! Angela then called for the Ham Lake community to help furnish the trailer using the donation money – there were plenty of volunteers and soon enough, Lee’s new bathroom and pantry were fully stocked, and by the time Christmas arrived, Lee was given the incredible gift of a new home. Astonishingly, his new bedroom was the size of his old camper! Needless to say, Lee was completely speechless.
A Final Word From Angela
When someone has gone out of there way to help a complete and utter stranger, it’s always nice to give the last word to that central figure who changed another person’s life; of course, a HUGE amount of credit needs to go to Sarah and many others who helped Lee get back on his feet, but Angela was the key: “The remainder of Lee’s life,” Angela suggests, “will be warm and comfortable. He is loved by an entire community and beyond.” Beautiful.