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Waitress at Michigan restaurant couldn't believe her tip

CBS News logo CBS News 12/20/2017
a close up of text on a white background: A group of seven men surprise Mary Lively, a waitress at Theo & Stacy's in Kalamazoo, with a $1,000 tip ahead of the holiday season. © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. A group of seven men surprise Mary Lively, a waitress at Theo & Stacy's in Kalamazoo, with a $1,000 tip ahead of the holiday season.

Mike "Tonto" Alexander handed over an envelope with $1,000 cash inside to a waitress at Theo & Stacy's Restaurant in Kalamazoo, Michigan -- the biggest tip of her life, CBS Detroit reports. The recipient, Mary Lively, was so overwhelmed she could hardly breathe.

But Alexander feels like he was the lucky one.

"We were just so lucky to find the right person for this," he said. "I can't wait to do it again next year."

Delivering a $1,000 tip to one deserving restaurant server was the brainchild of one of Alexander's friends, a California resident who's done well for himself in business.

"We were talking and he planted the seed," Alexander said. "He said gather 10 friends and you each pitch in $100. It's not that much for one person to give, but it's a $1,000 tip for someone."

Alexander called nine friends, and they were all in. They picked Theo & Stacy's restaurant as the place to hand it out because the owners have a reputation for being charitable-minded souls. It seemed like the perfect spot to give back.

"They're self made people and every year they feed all the homeless for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They volunteer their holiday to feed hundreds of people," Alexander said. "They're always doing wonderful things for the community, why not do something for their staff."

Alexander and his friends kept their mission under wraps when they arrived and jokingly told the hostess to give them the "orneriest waitress you have."

Mary Lively, a waitress in Kalamazoo, was overjoyed to get $1,000 tip.: 171219-wwmt-big-tip-01.jpg © WWMT-TV 171219-wwmt-big-tip-01.jpg

She set them up at Lively's table. "She's loved by everybody, she's been there 30 years or longer," Alexander said.

As soon as they saw Lively, they knew she was the one. "She waited on us and I said 'This is the lady,'" Alexander said. "You cold see how kind she was. Some of the guys who were with me, they knew her parents from when they had their own little restaurant. It couldn't have gone any better."

The group had bought an envelope at Meijer and had everybody sign it. When they paid the $70 check, Alexander told her the envelope had a little something extra inside for her.

"I said 'You can open it now," Alexander said. "She said 'Oh my God' -- and then she said she couldn't even breathe for a moment." She had to step outside to collect herself.

Like most people, Lively is struggling a bit this time of year and she told CBS affiliate WWMT-TV she'll use the money to pay her next car payment and buy presents for her family. "I like the people, I enjoy serving people food. That's what I know, that's what I've done all my life," said Lively about her love of the job.

As for Alexander, he plans to do the same thing every year … and he's spreading the word, hoping that others do the same.

"I was on a flight with a guy from Wilmington and told him about it," Alexander said. "He got excited and said he would do it, too. Let's spread this across the country."

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