Angela spent her days completing pizza deliveries in her hometown, but one fateful order would change her life completely thanks to a shocking discovery. And it didn't take long for her story to go viral...
Meet Angela Nguyen, a humble, kind-hearted woman living in Anoka County, Minnesota. The hard worker spent her days driving the streets of her town delivering pizzas for Domino's to her fellow residents.
It wasn't the easiest 9-5 job, but as far as Angela was concerned, it checked a major box of hers which was feeling like she was helping people on a daily basis. It was her life's passion, and she even used to work with terminally ill HIV patients until her life was flipped upside down.
Angela's job in the non-profit world brought such a sense of accomplishment, however, that all came to a crashing halt when her department folded before her very eyes. She found herself out of work with bills to pay, but luckily other employment opportunities came knocking on her door.
One position, in particular, was appealing on paper: a job helping those living in hospice care. For anyone with a kind heart like Angela, it would've been a perfect fit - but there was something from her past that made her unable to move forward with the job opportunity.
"It Was Just Too Difficult"
"[Bosses] offered me another position with [a] hospice," Nguyen shared during an interview with The Atlantic back in 2016. Grateful for the chance, Angela found herself tied. It wasn't that she was afraid of hard work, it's just that she couldn't bear revisiting a dark period in her life.
"I had a daughter that had died while I was working for Minnesota Visiting Nurses, and it was just too difficult for me to think of going to work with other people that were dying," Angela emotionally confessed. "So I left." The quest for a job remained...
A New Opportunity
While working in a hospice was out of the question, Angela wasn't completely out of luck in the job department. Her eldest daughter, Sarah, had a great idea that her mother should join her at a local Domino's branch for work. She pitched the idea to Angela, hoping that it would solve her employment worries.
With so much experience caring and helping others, Angela wasn't exactly 100 percent sold on the idea, but after taking some time to think about it, she realized it was a better fit than she'd realized. While it may not be a caretaking job, it would allow her to take care of her loved ones.
The job arrangement benefited Sarah in an extra way, as she was able to coordinate shifts with her mom to ensure that she could get some help caring for her young kids at home. It didn't take long for the grandmother and mother duo to feel like they had their schedule down pat.
Before long, Angela was handling solo deliveries and working incredibly long shifts. Nguyen was no stranger to putting in the hours at work, but the job at the pizza joint certainly took a toll on her. Delivering pizza was no walk in the park - contrary to popular belief!
A Special Delivery
Long hours aside, Angela was overall happy with her new employment. Whether it was early in the morning or late at night, there was something so fulfilling about seeing the face of a satisfied customer that made Nguyen's day time and time again. Plus, she got to talk to people from all walks of life.
And it didn't take long for her to form a bond with loyal customers, especially one 76-year-old man who went by the name of Lee Haase. He lived just outside of Anoka County and made it a habit of ordering pizza every Saturday. Soon, he and Angela had struck up a friendship.
"Something Wasn't Right"
After all, Lee was about as loyal and regular as a customer could get. "He likes to order every Saturday," Angela recalled when speaking with USA Today back in 2015. "About 10:15 A.M., you are going to get an order from Lee. It was a wholesome routine, but something worried Nguyen.
Week by week, Angela grew more concerned by Lee's living arrangement. He lived in a run-down trailer on the outskirts of town. However, what lay beyond the walls of the trailer would prove to be wilder than Angela could have imagined. Lee's life was far from ordinary...
Life Turned Upside Down
What few knew was that Lee had suffered some incredibly tough blows during the past year. At the vulnerable age of 76, he watched his home get absolutely wrecked by a tree that fell during a powerful storm. In the blink of an eye, he was left without a home.
To make matters worse, the elderly man had nowhere near enough money to repair the damage to his house - so he had no choice but to pack up and find a new place to stay. And that's how he ended up living in the rundown trailer in rural Minnesota. But the losses weren't over yet...
A Life of Loss
And as if losing his beloved home at such an old age wasn't enough, more sorrow was right around the corner for Lee. Later that year, his child lost his life in a snowmobiling accident. Now, reeling from these two life-changing blows, the old man found himself devastated.
But to Sarah, Angela, and any average person he came across, Lee came nowhere close to showing his true sadness on his face. He kept his story close to his chest, choosing to greet everyone with a smile instead. But for the pizza delivery duo, the truth lay right beyond the trailer door.
The First Peek
Week after week, Sarah and Angela followed the established routine of meeting Lee outside his trailer to hand him his warm food. That way, the elderly man never had to reveal the state in which he was living. But one fateful Saturday morning, Sarah completed her regular delivery with a twist.
The Domino's employee handed off the food but managed to get a peek inside Lee's trailer, revealing the true state of the 76-year-old's living condition. And if the trailer's outside made Angela and Sarah worry, then the inside raised major red flags...
The Secret Revealed
It may have only been a fraction of the whole trailer, but it was more than enough for Sarah to go racing to her mother after work to share the worrisome story. Angela was absolutely rocked by the news - never had she thought that Lee's reality was that challenging!
The trailer was missing basic living necessities like power, which meant that Lee spent his nights covered in darkness, with no lights in his shack. And the cold Minnesota winters? Lee went without proper heating - something that no person, let alone an elderly man, should experience.
The longer Angela and Sarah thought about Lee's situation, the more it sunk in how unbearable it must be for the elderly man. The lack of electricity also meant that Lee couldn't prepare warm meals for himself, which explained the weekly Domino's orders.
Anyone who lay eyes on Lee's trailer would feel their heartstrings being pulled, but this story hit Angela at a new level, considering her history of working with vulnerable populations. The Domino's employee and her daughter leaped into action to try and help their regular customer.
"Got to Do Something"
"I thought, 'We got to do something,'" Nguyen shared when speaking with USA Today. "We can't let a human being live like this." It started with Angela buying a heater for Lee to use, but she wasn't done there. Her mind started racing with other ways to help.
She immediately thought of the weekly pizza deliveries. "[They're] what [Lee] would live on on the weekends because he was elderly and could get Meals on Wheels," Nguyen explained to The Atlantic. While she was relieved he at least had food, she desperately wanted to help more.
Little Acts of Kindness
As Angela's mind worked away, thinking of ways to help Lee, she continued her weekly drop-offs in the meantime, trying her best to bring some brightness to his day. "I would look forward to delivering to him and just being a little ray of sunshine to him every Saturday morning," she said.
She even topped up his deliveries with a hot coffee to warm him up. But Angela's heart of gold wasn't satisfied there. So, she got working on opening a GoFundMe page to help get Lee a better place to live. Little did she know what events would follow next...
Outpouring of Support
As soon as the GoFundMe page went live, Angela realized that she and her daughter weren't the only ones touched by Lee's story. "We got donations from as far as Australia," Nguyen shared with USA Today. She couldn't believe how helpful these strangers were behaving.
And this immense wave of human generosity paid off big for Lee. In just two months, the donations reached a whopping $32,000! Having achieved this monumental step in her quest to help Lee, Angela started scheming about what she could do next to improve Lee's life.
Home, At Last
The $32,000 that Angela was able to round up on the online fundraising platform went a long way. She was able to purchase a home for Lee to move into! But it didn't stop there - fellow residents of the town also chipped in by donating furniture for the new digs.
Once everything was put together, Angela and Sarah were ready to show Lee what they'd been working on. The emotional moment that Lee laid eyes on his new home was filmed and shared on YouTube's popular channel Humankind for the world to see. For Angela and Sarah, it was the moment they'd been waiting for.
Sharing the Love
But it wasn't just the mom and daughter Domino's duo that was in on this major surprise. By this point, a big portion of the community had rallied for Lee's cause and joined in on the process of securing him a better future. So they, too, piled into the new trailer for the surprise.
It's safe to say that Lee was at a loss for words during the big reveal. In the video, Sarah is captured going up and hugging her elderly friend. "You remember when this started, and I promised you we were going to help you?" she asked Lee. She, too, was overcome by emotion.
It took a moment or two, but eventually, Lee was able to gather himself and articulate just what a special moment this was. "It's wonderful," he later shared with his fellow Minnesota residents. "I'm so grateful for [the] people doing this." He was shocked by what Sarah and Angela managed to accomplish.
Angela took her elderly friend for a walk through his new home, pointing out all the comforts and necessities he now had compared to the last trailer. Not only was there electricity, but the community had stocked the fridge and pantry to save Lee from his weekly pizza orders.
Soaking It All In
It's small things that most people are fortunate to not even think twice about, but for Lee, the new home was packed with things he had gone without for quite some time. He had working appliances, heat, cooking supplies - all the ingredients to severely improve his living standards.
As he wandered through his new abode, his eyes showed just how touched he was by the whole experience. It was clear that this would be a brand new chapter for the old man, one filled with independence, dignity, and community. Long gone were the days of the run-down trailer.
Full of Thanks
The Humankindness footage showed a wide-eyed Lee soaking in his new reality amongst his new friends. From a life of solitude in an isolated trailer to a brand new home surrounded by community members, Lee could hardly recognize anything about his new life. Except for Sarah and Angela, of course.
But while it was a lot of new things to take in at once, they were upgrades nonetheless. For example, his new bedroom was the same square footage as his old trailer altogether! Lee never imagined that two kind pizza delivery workers could accomplish so much.
With the help of Angela, Sarah, and the dedicated residents of Anoka County, the new digs and furniture weren't the only things in Lee's new abode. They had also taken the time to infuse some Christmas spirit into the man's home by putting up tons of decorations.
It was just another way to show Lee that he wasn't alone. If these kind strangers hadn't stepped in, he would have been facing another winter of sub-freezing temperatures alone in his little trailer. Now, he had a warm place to rest his head and new friends to share the holidays with.
Feeling Good While Doing Good
The whole occasion made for a very heartwarming video for Humankindness. And while Angela had her initial hesitations about giving up care work to deliver pizzas, her message in the segment proved she'd achieved her overall goal of helping others in the community.
"Every single one of us enjoyed doing this," Nguyen shared with the film crew while they were collecting footage. "This ain't all for Lee. We all benefited." While it wasn't at an organization or health center, it was clear that Angela had found a way to make a difference at Domino's.
On a Mission to Help
But just as Angela wasn't satisfied with the warm coffees she delivered to Lee or her warm greetings, she was nowhere close to trying to help anyone and everyone in need that she came across during her shifts at the local pizza joint. She had so much kindness to give!
And it didn't take long for the kind worker to find another cause to rally for. "Another customer's daughter just had surgery for Crohn's Disease and was very, very ill, and the mother was out of work," Nguyen explained while speaking with The Atlantic. It was time to get to work.
More Acts of Kindness
Almost like Batman's logo flashing in the sky, Angela's connection with this new Domino's customer meant that she felt her call of duty to do what she could to help. "I started a GoFundMe for her, and we are getting enough donations that her mother doesn't have to worry about going back to work right now," she said.
For Angela, this new cause was a no-brainer, especially considering that she had the heart-wrenching experience of caring for a sick child. She wanted to ensure that this mom could get her priorities straight. "She can just stay home and take care of her daughter," she explained. And to think, this all started with Lee…
A Long Time Coming
If anyone were to ask Lee, he'd say that Angela had a huge impact on his life, but the opposite applied as well. The elderly man taught Nguyen that her work title didn't define her ability to do good deeds in her community. Whether caring for HIV patients or delivering pizzas, she could make a difference.
And thanks to this new relationship, Lee has a new life for himself. "[He] stood out for quite some time and doesn't order for delivery anymore because he's got a stove and a refrigerator and a microwave," Angela explained proudly. "Yeah, he stood out for a while."
Sarah and Angela's Impact
And while Sarah and Angela didn't see Lee as often as they once did, the story of the mother and daughter pizza delivery duo lived on in the community. Especially Angela, who became a local figure of kindness and compassion and changed what it meant to be a delivery worker.
More than that, she became a source of inspiration for other local establishments. It was safe to say that people were motivated to try and do well through their business as well, and it would serve to benefit way more people in need than just Lee. What an impact!
Her Own Struggle
The nature of Angela's kind deeds is even more astounding considering the tough reality she faced with her work. Working at Domino's wasn't her dream job, but Angela stuck with it, despite how tough it could be financially. In Minnesota, she was only earning $9.50 per hour.
She explained her predicament to The Atlantic, saying, "Sometimes you'll go make two or three or four deliveries, and people just aren't tipping. It happens quite often, and then it's very easy to get really crabby as a delivery driver because we don't always make enough money to cover our gas."
Looking on the Bright Side
Despite the troubles, Angela wasn't planning on going anywhere. She'd found an ideal work opportunity that allowed her to meet people in her town and help those in need that she came across. It wasn't perfect, but at the end of the day, she was doing the best she could to provide for her family, too.
Any job has its downsides, however, and Angela was well aware that her's was completing deliveries during the tough Minnesota winters. "Hopefully, [customers will] understand, but sometimes you just get people that are having a bad day, and you have to deal with it the best you can," Nguyen explained.
"Not Just a Delivery Driver"
But just as Angela's day could be impacted by a frustrated or impatient customer, her day could also be made by the positive interactions she had with people out on her delivery route. Whether she was spreading the joy, or getting a smile on the job, it was definitely a plus.
And it was that very aspect that kept bringing her back. It was her favorite part of the job. "Seeing somebody smile or just hearing a thank you and having them know my name," she explained of her highlight. "'Oh, Nguyen, thanks. Nice to see you again.' They remember me as a person and not just a delivery driver," she said.
A Beautiful Message
It may not have featured the makings of a typical moral tale, but Angela and Sarah's story with Lee was one with a beautiful takeaway to unearth at its core. No matter the conditions, there's always an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of those around us.
What started as a kind greeting and a cup of hot coffee grew into something bigger than Lee could have ever imagined. And now, the kind old man has a second shot at life - all thanks to the actions of some selfless delivery workers who wanted to show that they cared...