When Tony Neale, at Country Grocer in Unanderra, started offering free coffee to doctors, nurses and emergency service personnel who came into the business last week his customers liked it so much they wanted to get involved.
So Mr Neale and his team decided to turn the tipping jar into a place people could leave money for coffee or meal as a thank you for the work they are doing on the front line in the battle with COVID-19.
"We wanted to give back to all the emergency personnel and health workers who are all doing such a wonderful job at the moment. It is just unbelievable.
"We get quite a few ambos in trying to grab something quickly. One day a lady was in the shop who said "I would like to buy them a coffee". That is when we came up with the idea of converting our tip jar into a place other customers could put money in to buy a coffee for all health workers including doctors, nurses and firies".
Mr Neale said they were all generally very humble people who didn't want any special treatment.
But when his staff did offer them a free coffee or some food they were often holding back tears because they are so grateful for the appreciation.
Mr Neale said they deserve it because they so often put their own lives at risk to help others.
One day recently he saw and ambulance officer buying food to take back to the station and when he got to the till they wouldn't let him pay.
"He was really in tears," Mr Neale said.
"I want to show them we have got their back. And really support what they are doing".
Mr Neale said he was talking to a doctor, who had just done a really long shift at the hospital earlier this week, who told him she just wanted a coffee and go home and spend some time with her family.
Which made him think a good activity when the coronavirus crisis is over will be to go to a park one day and invite all the doctors, nurses and emergency personnel to bring their families to a fun day put on by Country Grocer and the Wollongong community.
But for the time being the Unanderra business and its customers will keep trying to lift their spirits one coffee at a time.
"We are open at 5.30am and that is when we do find a lot of emergency and health workers going to work. So we give them a coffee to help start their day," Mr Neale said.
."We are getting a lot of positive feedback. The response from our shoppers has been overwhelming".
The Illawarra Mercury has launched a Taking Care of Business campaign.
Each day we will highlight a local business who is adapting or evolving to be able to keep operating under these trying times.
If you know of a business adapting, please send us an email titled Taking Care of Business to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have also put a call out and will run a list of cafes, restaurants and clubs who are offering takeaway or delivery on our Facebook page. If you know of an outlet now offering home delivery or takeaway, please let us know and add it to the list.
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