By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published May 27, 2020 at 12:01 PM

As restaurants continue to navigate uncharted territory in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, little acts of kindness have continued to spring up, shedding a bright light on these very dark times.

About two weeks ago, Buckley’s got a surprise visit from Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher Josh Lindblom and his wife Aurielle, who purchased $500 in meals for the restaurant to pay forward to its guests.

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We are feeling so grateful for the kindness in our community. Today, we were surprised by Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Lindblom and his wife Aurielle when they purchased $500 worth of meals from us. �~f❤️�TM� It was our pleasure to inform one guest after the next that their takeout order was covered, thanks to the generosity of the Lindblom family. �~��-- We look forward to the return of @brewers baseball & hosting your family in our restaurant. . . THANK YOU @jlboomer25 and @auriellelindblom for your kindness and a socially distant introduction tonight. We hope you enjoyed your first Milwaukee Fish Fry ... Go Brewers! �'TM�'>⚾️ . . A very special shout out to @sophiaminnaert for telling the Lindblom’s about us �~~ . . �"�: Thanks to Zack, Anna, Nabeel, Gryffin the dog, Sarah, Kevin, Jennie, Moses the dog, Moises, Riley, Brendan, Molly and others we didn’t hunt down for a photo, for supporting Buckley’s and enjoying a meal thanks to the Lindblom’s ❤️ . . #buckleysmke #milwaukee #mkelove #inthistogethermke #mkefoodie #mkefoodies #milwaukeefoodie #milwaukeefoodies #mkeeats #shoplocalmke #supportsmallbusiness #brewers #gobrewers #brewcrew #milwaukeebrewers #gobrewcrew #joshlindblom #payitforward #thisismycrew

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These are, of course, the stories that regularly make the news. After all, we all love to hear about how our sports icons and hometown heroes are giving back to the community.

But making a difference for restaurants doesn’t take fame, fortune or a ton of cash. In fact, showing support can take a variety of forms, from simply ordering take-out, to purchasing gift cards or restaurant bonds, buying merchandise or donating to relief funds.

In fact, some guests are finding new, innovative ways to simultaneously support their favorite local restaurants and pay-it-forward in the community at the same time.

Support from 2,000 miles away

"I love a good meal, and when we go out to dinner, I order things that I can’t make at home," says Anne Sprecher, former public relations and marketing professional for Sprecher Brewing. "So I have a real appreciation for restaurants. I have an appreciation for the culture and hospitality, as well as all the hard work that goes into every meal that’s served."

And that deep appreciation has followed Sprecher and her husband Randy over 2,000 miles to the Central Coast region of California where the couple has regularly wintered for over a decade

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Sprechers elected to stay in California to wait things out. But in the meantime, Anne says they found themselves with a deep desire to reconnect with their hometown of Milwaukee.

"We’ve kept up with a lot of the news," she says. "And after reading an article about the pivot made by The Tandem to serve the community, we made the decision that we really wanted to show our support."

Paying it forward

The first thing they did was to make a donation to The Tandem to assist them in their mission to feed community members in need. But from there, Anne says, they gave a good deal of thought to how to support other restaurants.

"Not only do we have favorite restaurants where we dine regularly," she says. "But there are so many places which have really stuck with us and supported Sprecher by carrying products over all these years. So we really wanted to find a way to give back."

The two discussed a plan of action and she reached out to four or five of her favorite places, explaining the idea.

"I told them," she says, "That we would donate a sum of money to them. Half of the money was to be split among the restaurant staff. But the other half should be used to provide a discount to carry-out customers."

The customers wouldn’t know about the discount until they picked up their orders, she says; and when they did, the restaurants were instructed to tell them it was provided by an anonymous friend of the restaurant.

"Our hope really was that those customers would choose to pay it forward," she says. "Maybe they’d do something similar for another restaurant. Or maybe they’d leave a bigger tip for the staff. In the bigger scheme of things, it’s really not that much. But I really hoped that it would plant a seed and that maybe it would be something that others could use to pay forward."

"It’s really about creating a circle of caring while thanking people for the work that they’re doing," she says. "We’ve all had amazing experiences in restaurants… celebrating birthdays or anniversaries… and I think it’s really important to express appreciation for that. It’s about taking the time to say: Thank you. I’m so glad you’re around."

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.