Niles Small Business Owner 'Pays it forward,' gives food to South Bend Memorial Hospital

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Joey Armadillo's has been closed for about two weeks after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's latest Coronavirus restrictions that closed indoor dining, bowling alleys and schools. The owner, Mark Godsey, has been spending those two weeks trying to help his employees, businesses in the area and frontline workers. He's been raising money online to help other small businesses struggling during the pandemic and asking people to post to his page about what people or organizations need help during the pandemic. Saturday, he used some of the funds he raised to bring 40 meals to frontline workers at South Bend Memorial Hospital.

"The donations are hugely appreciated right now," said Betsy Thielmann, a South Bend Memorial Nurse. "The hospital is very busy. Every employee is going above and beyond right now to care for our patients. So, any donation, any support from the community is extremely appreciated right now."

Godsey partnered with Jim's Smokin' Café in Niles to get the food to the hospital. It's owner, Jim Morris, said being a part of this kind of project helps lift spirits during a trying year.

"I think it helps in both ways," Morris said. "Some of the restaurants in Michigan are taking a little bit of a hit with South Bend still being open, and it gives us an opportunity to not only stay a little busy and get a small amount of income, but also to know that you're helping somebody else."

Godsey said the whole idea came to him when a lady came into his office and dropped off money for a party she wanted to have at Joey Armadillo's in June, hoping the money would help the bowling alley/restaurant survive Governor Whitmer's latest restrictions. Godsey said he then decided to start his "Pay it Forward" Campaign. He said seeing it in action makes having to close his business more manageable.

"It makes me feel real good," Godsey said. "Paying it forward is a wonderful thing. When I do one thing and then I see someone donate some money to something else, it's a great thing."

Godsey said the fundraising efforts have already raised $3,000, but it was a single donation that made Saturday's food donation possible.

"Matter of fact, a couple who we'll call 'Sallison.' They're the ones who paid for today at Memorial Hospital. The response has been overwhelming."

"Sallison" is a couple who lives in Chicago. They heard of Godsey's pay it forward campaign and donated $400 that Godsey then used to get 40 meals over to South Bend Memorial for its environmental staff who are charged with disinfecting and sanitizing patient rooms to keep them safe for the next patient.

Godsey said he is in a good enough spot financially that he can focus on fundraising and helping others in need while his business remains closed at least until the initial end of Governor Whitmer's order which is December 8th. If the order gets extended after that, he said he does not know what will happen with his business.

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