Waffle House Waitress: Small Act of Kindness Leads to an Unbelievable Surprise
Evoni Williams, a waitress at the local Waffle House in La Marque, TX, was in the middle of another busy day at work when a customer waved her down. She stepped away from her duties and took time to help the elderly patron.
She didn’t know her small act of kindness was secretly recorded by another diner in the restaurant, who later posted it online. The resulting chain of events turned the waitress into a viral sensation and led to an unbelievable surprise.
Not Another Regular Morning
Laura Wolf regularly visited the La Marque Waffle House for a tasty breakfast and coffee. During her visits, she got to know the serving staff as well. Most days were busy but calm, with nothing extraordinary happening at the restaurant.
One morning, when Laura stopped in for breakfast, she noticed something out of the ordinary as she ate. Impressed, she put her fork and knife down and grabbed her phone. She quickly snapped a few photos of Evoni Williams and one of her customers, both completely unaware they were being observed.
Buzzing with Business
Before Laura even began taking pictures, she noticed the Waffle House was strangely packed. People in the small town of around 16,000 were used to coming to the restaurant for meals. It was a popular spot for La Marque citizens, but it was busier than normal.
The restaurant was overflowing with customers wanting a hot meal that morning. That meant that every server on duty was extremely busy and struggling to keep up with customers’ needs. The morning rush was particularly challenging.
A Hardworking Server
One of the busiest servers was Evoni Williams, known to her friends and coworkers as "Nini." Laura recognized her from her previous visits to the restaurant. Evoni had worked at Waffle House for a few years and was known for the dedication and hard work she brought to the job.
Evoni had good reason to give her all in the position: The 18-year-old was working to save money to attend a local college. She didn't have much money saved yet, but she was optimistic for the future. Little did she know that her great customer service would ultimately pay off in a major way.
On this particular morning, Evoni arrived at Waffle House ready to work. When she noticed how busy the restaurant was, she was hopeful that it would be a great day for tips. She moved quickly from table to table in her section to take orders.
Despite her hopefulness, Evoni later admitted that the morning rush had felt overwhelming. The restaurant was understaffed that day, leaving the servers on duty to pick up the slack. Evoni kept moving, delivering breakfast plates to hungry customers. She stopped when she noticed a customer waving her down for assistance.
Out of the corner of her eye, Evoni noticed a regular customer come through the door. He was an elderly man by the name of Adrien, but most people called the 78-year-old by his nickname, "Mr. Karaoke." The man ate at the Waffle House at least once a week.
Mr. Karaoke arrived around 10 a.m. for a hearty breakfast. He was always pleasant to be around, and servers at the restaurant knew he had been battling some health issues. In fact, he carried an oxygen tank with him to help him breathe. Because of his health problems, the elderly patron asked Evoni for an unusual favor.
Getting Evoni’s Attention
Even when she noticed Mr. Karaoke walk in, Evoni kept working. She had a lot of tables waiting on food, and others were still waiting to be seated. As she attempted to keep everything flowing, Mr. Karaoke tried to wave her down.
Once Evoni noticed him trying to get her attention, she promptly walked to his seat. He leaned in to whisper something to Evoni so no one else could hear his request. All the while, another patron was quietly watching from afar as the teen and the elderly man spoke to each other.
Trying to Listen In
Laura was sitting in a booth directly across from Mr. Karaoke and Evoni. Even though she was close, she couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but she could tell the conversation was important.
She noticed the elderly man looked a little embarrassed as he spoke to the waitress. She thought it was interesting, pulled out her phone and opened her video app. She had a feeling something was about to happen, and her instinct was right.
Focusing on Mr. Karaoke
As Laura watched closely, Evoni was trying to make out what Mr. Karaoke was telling her. Because of the hustle and bustle of the morning rush, it was hard to hear in the loud restaurant. Pots were clanging in the kitchen, and customers were chatting at their tables. Evoni could barely hear Mr. Karaoke's soft voice.
She leaned in closer to him to listen, even as one of the line cooks was yelling her name to get her attention. Yes, she had to pick up orders and help serve, but the waitress was intent on hearing what Mr. Karaoke had to say.
A Quick Exchange
At first, Evoni assumed that Mr. Karaoke was dissatisfied with his meal in some way. If he wanted to send it back to the kitchen, she would happily accommodate him. As he explained his situation to Evoni, she simply nodded with a smile. After that, he passed his breakfast plate to the waitress.
Evoni took the plate — filled with eggs, home fries, toast and ham — but she didn't take it back to the kitchen. She put the plate in front of her and did something unusual before passing it back to Mr. Karaoke so he could enjoy his meal.
A Quiet Observer
In the quick exchange, Evoni focused completely on Mr. Karaoke. Even with all the patrons and workers in the restaurant, she acted as if none of them existed and carved out some time to help the man in front of her.
However, the buzz of the restaurant was still in full swing. Other customers were waiting for their meals, and food was waiting in the kitchen to be served. Laura was still watching the entire exchange, secretly recording from her booth, but her phone wasn’t the only camera that caught Evoni's conversation with Mr. Karaoke.
Smile, You're on Candid Camera
While Laura watched and recorded the exchange from her seat, another video was being recorded of Evoni and Mr. Karaoke. Waffle House's grainy security camera footage later showed Evoni walking up to the elderly customer, leaning in to hear his soft voice, and then taking the man's plate. It also caught her leaning from behind the bar counter as if nothing had happened.
The video camera gave a bird's eye view of exactly what happened between the Waffle House waitress and the elderly man. Later, the footage earned her significant praise as thousands of people all over the internet watched the special moment between the two.
Sharing on Social Media
After helping Mr. Karaoke, Evoni returned to her job as if nothing had happened. However, Laura was speechless after capturing the heartwarming moment. She had gotten everything on video, as well as a few photos, and she just had to share the sweet event with someone.
Laura relied on social media to share the special moment between the waitress and the elderly customer. She wrote a lengthy Facebook post praising Evoni for her helpfulness, and she shared the story of the kindhearted act with her own family and friends. However, the post exploded with shares and retweets and soon reached thousands, impacting Evoni's life forever.
A Vulnerable Moment
The moment started with a small request from Mr. Karaoke, who was battling serious health problems and recovering from pneumonia. Because of these challenges, he was unable to do some of his typical daily activities.
"I can hold a fork fine and dandy," the elderly man later told ABC News. "But to cut, it looks like I’m going to stab somebody." He needed help cutting his ham, so he decided to quietly ask a server for a little help with cutting his food. That is when he waved down Evoni for some assistance.
A Cut Above
Once Mr. Karaoke had gotten Evoni's attention and explained his situation, she was more than happy to help. "He was like, ‘My hands are not functioning too well,'" Evoni explained to ABC News. "He needed me to cut his food for him, so I did."
The Waffle House waitress quietly took his plate, cut his ham into small pieces and passed it back to him so he could enjoy his meal. To her, this small act of kindness was just about caring for others and providing good customer service. However, to Laura (and eventually thousands of others), it was more than that.
Sharing the Story
In Laura's Facebook post, she shared photos of what she had witnessed. "I don’t know her name, but I heard this elderly man tell her his hands don’t work too good," Laura shared in the post.
Laura continued, "He was also on oxygen and struggling to breathe. Without hesitation, she took his plate and began cutting up his ham. This may seem small, but to him, I’m sure it was huge. I’m thankful to have seen this act of kindness and caring at the start of my day, while everything in this world seems so negative."
Spreading Like Wildfire
Soon after Laura shared the photo of Evoni and Mr. Karaoke on Facebook, her phone began to buzz with notifications. Throughout the rest of her breakfast, she received ping after ping. Some people liked and commented on the post, praising Evoni for her good deed. Others shared the positive interaction on their own pages for their family and friends to see.
The story quickly spread online. Without even knowing it, Laura had captured an event that would ultimately help Evoni in a huge way. Soon, the waitress' good deed was rewarded in ways that no one in the town could have imagined.
Just a few days after Laura shared the kindhearted act on Facebook, her post went viral with more than 90,000 likes and 47,000 shares. Not only had people in La Marque seen her post, but people all over the nation had liked and shared it.
Mr. Karaoke was surprised by all the newfound attention. "Somebody told me two days later that I was very popular because they saw me on Facebook," he later told a local ABC News affiliate. "They got a fancy picture of my suspenders in the back." He and Evoni were attracting attention, and an influential person in town had taken notice.
Getting to the Mayor
La Marque is small, and it didn’t take long for Evoni's story to spread all over town and reach the office of the mayor! After Mayor Bobby Hocking heard the news about this viral story happening in his own town, he just knew he had to meet the young woman behind all the fuss.
"It’s always refreshing in this day and age to see the younger generation helping the older generation," said Mayor Hocking. "Because our young generation is not always cast in the best light. It never gets old seeing young people help." His office coordinated with Waffle House and media outlets to pay Evoni a special visit.
A Big Moment
Evoni knew the mayor was showing up on a specific day, but she was a little taken aback by all the fuss behind her small act of kindness. She was surrounded by her mother and co-workers as she met and talked with the mayor of her town.
Plenty of cameras were there to record the special moment, and more than half a dozen television camera crews and reporters showed up to report the story. However, Mayor Hocking had a few more surprises up his sleeve to reward Evoni for her kindness. It certainly turned into a day she wouldn't forget.
A Day of Her Own
As camera crews flocked inside the Waffle House, Evoni knew she was about to get much more attention. Mayor Hocking stood at the front of the restaurant behind the bar, right where Evoni had stood to cut up Mr. Karaoke's ham. The mayor had a special presentation just for the waitress.
He held a special certificate in his hand. To her surprise, the mayor announced that March 8 would be known in the town as "Evoni 'Nini' Williams Day." He handed her the certificate so she could see for herself that she really had her own day.
Before the mayor's visit, Evoni's story had circulated all over the internet. Not only were people seeing her kind act for themselves, but they were also beginning to learn more about the waitress and why she was working in Waffle House in the first place.
When La Marque residents found out she was saving to enroll in college, they decided to start a GoFundMe for the teen to help raise money for her tuition. The goal of the GoFundMe was to raise $16,000. However, Evoni soon had even more money for tuition after another important person heard her story.
A Call from TSU
The GoFundMe account for Evoni had started to pick up traction. Each day, more people from La Marque joined people from across the country to donate and help the kind Waffle House waitress go to school.
Word about the fundraising effort eventually traveled to a university 30 miles away in Houston. The school was just a 35-minute drive from Evoni’s Waffle House. Staff and administrators at Texas Southern University heard about Evoni's dream of attending college and wanted to help. "We wanted to reward Evoni’s act of kindness," an administrator at the university said in an interview.
Another Special Guest
Mayor Hocking, Laura, Mr. Karaoke and others were there to celebrate Evoni on her special day. She was excited after finding out she had her very own day in her town, but another special guest in the crowd was standing by with yet another surprise for the waitress.
The president of Texas Southern University attended the event to honor Evoni. He wanted to meet her in person and "let her know that good deeds do not go unnoticed," he later explained in an interview. After speaking with her and giving her a gift of his own, emotions quickly flooded the room.
Paying It Forward
After the mayor made his special declaration, the president of Texas Southern University joined Evoni behind the Waffle House bar to make an announcement of his own. In front of her family, friends, co-workers and the mayor, he awarded the waitress with something major: a scholarship for $16,000 to help with the cost of attending TSU.
He even brought a giant check showcasing the amount . Evoni and her mom immediately broke out in tears, completely stunned by the gesture. Many people in the crowd shed a few tears as well.
The Ones Who Changed Evoni's Life
As Evoni received her proclamation and scholarship check, both Laura and Mr. Karaoke couldn't help but become emotional. Laura never could have imagined her post on social media would change the course of someone else's life so drastically.
Laura again expressed pride in Evoni for her kindness to the elderly man. "It was so busy in here, you know? And she actually took the time to stop and hear what he had to say instead of walking past him. It just meant something to me," she said in an interview with local reporters. Mr. Karaoke agreed. "It means a lot," he said.
The Right Thing to Do
Evoni still hasn't gotten used to all the attention and praise that came with her kind act toward Mr. Karaoke. She really can't believe she received an entire day in her honor, much less the scholarship.
For the young waitress, she walked away from Mr. Karaoke that day glad she could help. She didn't expect all the rewards she received. She helped him simply because it was the right thing to do. "I don’t know, it was something I would do any other day," Evoni told local news reporters. "I would want someone to help my grandmother or grandfather."
A Sense of Community
The waitress has continued working at Waffle House five days a week to save additional money for her tenure at Texas Southern University. In spite of her local celebrity status, she still serves up meals to hungry customers with a friendly demeanor and great customer service. Clearly, she operates using the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
"Evoni always has a smile on her face," said Waffle House manager Mundarius Wright. He said Evoni's small act of kindness reflects the sense of community his staff tries to build at the restaurant with each hot meal. "We treat customers like family."
Still Raising Money
Evoni was very grateful to receive the scholarship for $16,000 to attend Texas Southern University. The scholarship was a great start, but the waitress still needs more funds to be able to stay in school without worrying about massive amounts of debt.
Evoni's GoFundMe is still in place to help the teen raise money for school and for a car so she can actually drive to school. "Let's help this young lady rise to the top, achieve her goals and become a business owner," the GoFundMe page reads. "Let's give her hope by not only reaching this goal, but exceeding it!"
For now, the administration at Texas Southern University has assigned a counselor to help Evoni enroll at the university and start her degree plan. The teen plans to major in business management, and the scholarship check and the money she's raised so far will help with her future goals in business.
She is a great cook and has worked for years in the service business. Once she receives her degree from the university and gains more experience, she would like to open up her own business — maybe a restaurant or maybe a hair salon — to serve customers.
Sharing a Lesson of Kindness
With Evoni's time spent serving others, it's no wonder that kindness and compassion are second nature to her. She has seen that kindness pays off in the long run, and she is reaping great benefits for something that seemed small at the time. "I’m happy for her," Laura said. "She’s a very, very sweet girl."
The biggest lesson that Evoni hopes other people take away from her story is to treat people kindly at all times, even when you think no one is watching. "Always be helpful," the teen shared with The Washington Post. "Just try to help others...as much as you can. It doesn’t take much."