Fresno Beehive

Mystery letter to Clovis bakery inspires paying it forward to homeless

A mystery letter with a $5 bill inside and a return address that simply said “Tehachapi to Redding” inspired Clovis-based Sweet Delicates bakery owner Deandra Miller to launch a pay-it-forward movement benefiting the homeless.
A mystery letter with a $5 bill inside and a return address that simply said “Tehachapi to Redding” inspired Clovis-based Sweet Delicates bakery owner Deandra Miller to launch a pay-it-forward movement benefiting the homeless. SPECIAL TO THE BEE

You’ve probably heard about people paying it forward at a Starbucks drive-thru by buying the drink of the person in line behind them.

Clovis bakery Sweet Delicates has started its own pay-it-forward movement, but for people who probably aren’t lining up for a $5 pumpkin spice latte: the homeless.

A mystery letter – more on that in a minute – spurred bakery owner Deandra Miller to jump on the idea she already had been noodling, dubbed “Tip the Homeless.”

Here’s how it works: Any tips in the bakery’s tip jar – which used to be spending money for the couple running the bakery – will go toward buying a pastry for a homeless person who comes into the bakery. Sweet Delicates will provide a free espresso, coffee or other hot drink.

I told you about Sweet Delicates when it opened back in May. The bakery is known for its Portuguese sweet breads, pastries and other goodies. It’s at 50 W. Bullard Ave. at Minnewawa Avenue, tucked behind the Dollar General Market.

Miller got the idea for the Tip the Homeless campaign from the more than a decade she spent in Portugal, where people would buy coffee for the homeless.

“It gets so cold over there,” she says. People “pay it forward, but instead of for the public, it’s for the homeless.”

This practice of buying coffee has made the rounds on Facebook, and is happening in many big cities. The New York Times did a story about the tradition in Italy. Sometimes the purchase is called a “pending coffee” or a “suspended coffee.”

Miller was planning to start her own version of it later this year after meeting up with someone from the Homeless in Fresno Instagram account (@homelessinFresno) to talk about hiring a homeless person to paint her a mural.

The spark that made Miller do it earlier than planned? A mystery letter mailed from Sacramento. It was addressed to the bakery with the name misspelled. It had no return address, saying only “Tehachapi to Redding,” and had just a $5 bill inside – nothing else.

With memories of people mailing anthrax to politicians, Miller actually dropped the bill and washed her hands. Her dad told her to report it. Her mom suggested it was a tip from someone who got good service but forgot to leave a tip.

“Here’s what I say,” she said in a Facebook post about it. “Let me pay it forward.”

The $5 bill went into the tip jar and is kicking off the Tip the Homeless effort.

Miller says: “I thank the individual, wherever and whoever you are, because you have just helped to make this world a better place. Please share this initiative.”

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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