“I’ve got goosebumps,” says Sarah Nelson, as she walks down Bishop Hill Street in Bishop Hill, Illinois. She’s joined by a line of ladies who are heading towards The Filling Station. It’s not a place to fill up your car, but a place to fill up your stomach, your coffee cup, and your heart.
“I couldn’t even imagine the community without the restaurant or the girls,” says Sarah, who nominated “the girls” for News 8’s Pay It Forward program.
“The girls” are Linda Spring and Crystal Dennis, who took over The Filling Station nearly 20 years ago. In those two decades, they’ve done more than just cook and clean… they’ve changed lives.
“If there’s someone ill, elderly – they will bring them food,” says Sarah. “They do benefits all the time and don’t expect anything in return.”
“They’re very friendly. I mean, we don’t see that in a lot of people anymore,” says LaDawn Johnson, a customer. “You don’t see that and these are just generous, good people.”
People who are known for knowing everybody else, but what they didn’t know was the surprise they were about to get. Sarah and her friends, who work together in Woodhull, Illinois, surprised Linda and Crystal with $300 last week.
“What’s this for?” asks Linda.
“Because you’re awesome!” exclaims Sarah.
“For everything you do for everybody else, Linda and Crystal,” says another nominator.
After many hugs and a few tears, I sat down with “the girls” to ask them where their “Pay It Forward” attitude comes from.
“There’s people who deserve this a lot more than us,” says Linda. “We’ve been lucky. We’ve been real lucky here. People have been good to us.”
“We both had major illnesses in our life,” says Crystal. “She [Linda] had a brain aneurysm and I had heart surgery and they just took over.”
“We know what they’ve done for other people so we’re just inspired by that,” says Sarah.
Linda and Crystal “pay it forward” by hosting nearly 40 benefits over the last 20 years. They “pay it forward” by feeding others even if their customers don’t have enough money to pay the bill. Remember the saying… “There’s no such things as a free lunch”? Well…
“Every day, we buy somebody’s lunch,” says Crystal.
Lunch, breakfast, dinner… Linda and Crystal do more than just serve food, they serve the soul. And while $300 isn’t much, in the words of “the girls” themselves – it’s not about how much money you have, but how many friends – and based on that, they’re the richest girls in the world.
Ironically enough, the day after we shot our story with “the girls,” their walk-in freezer broke down. Sarah says they wouldn’t have known how to pay to fix it, if it weren’t for the $300 they received the day before.
For more information on how you can “pay it forward” with the help of News 8 and Ascentra Credit Union, go to the top of WQAD.com and click on the “Contests” page.