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By Hannah Totte
What started as a simple act of kindness a year ago, when a Menlo Park woman offered to pay a complete stranger's grocery bill, has led to donations to the Second Harvest Food Bank that have surpassed the $93,000 goal set by the 93 Dollar Club.
"It's been a totally unexpected and amazing journey," says Carolee Levick Hazard of Menlo Park, who in August 2009 voluntarily paid the $207 grocery bill of a stranger, Jenni Ware, after Ms. Ware lost her wallet and was stranded at the checkout stand without a way to pay.
When Ms. Ware retrieved her wallet and mailed Ms. Hazard a check for $300 -- $93 extra, Ms. Hazard consulted her Facebook friends about what to do with the extra money. After suggestions were made to donate it to charity, Ms. Hazard matched the $93 and sent it to the local Second Harvest Food Bank, based in San Jose.
The spread of the story through the social network inspired others to donate $93, and by the next day, more than $1,000 had been raised.
Donations, which typically range from 93 cents to $93 each, now total $94,500, according to a recent count. The food banks says it provides two meals for every dollar donated.
"The 93 Dollar Club has had a momentum and rhythm of its own," says Ms. Hazard. "I've kind of been along for the ride instead of steering it."
Ms. Hazard's story inspired people to give, even amidst the downfall of the economy.
"A lot (of this) has been a kind of a perfect storm," she says. "Last year, there was a lot of bad news for a long time. People realize that it feels good to do this stuff."
People often share their own kindhearted stories with Ms. Hazard, such as noticing a busy neighbor's overgrown lawn and sneaking over to mow it.
"There's a lot of good out there," she says.
Now, Ms. Hazard is raising the goal to $100,000.
"For whatever reason, this story moves people," she says. "This ripple effect is pretty, pretty awesome."
Go to www.shfb.org and click on Carolee Hazard's 93 Dollar Club to donate. On Facebook, search for 93 Dollar Club.