"Thank you for making Ann Arbor a better place to live! Please enjoy some coffee!"
by Jenn McKee
From the July, 2017 issue
So read the letters local community leaders, politicians, small business owners, and nonprofit directors have been receiving anonymously for more than two years now. While locals often express gratitude for living in Ann Arbor, this one puts her money--or, more accurately, coffee-shop gift cards--where her mouth is.
The letters from the "Thankful Townie" come with $5-$10 worth of gift cards from RoosRoast or Sweetwaters. Past recipients include Groundcover News, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Aut Bar, the DDA, Kickshaw Theatre, the Delonis Center, Ann Arbor Summer Festival, 826michigan, Theatre Nova, and the Observer; politicians Chip Smith, Jeff Irwin, Sabra Briere, and Yousef Rabhi; AADL deputy directory Eli Neiburger; and county "knowledge master" Andy Brush. Recipients are invited to nominate other locals for recognition.
"There are so many amazing people doing amazing things in this town, but most of the attention always goes to a small handful of people," Thankful Townie says in an (anonymous) interview. "I felt like more people needed to be recognized, especially those working as executive directors of organizations and small business owners, as a way of encouraging them and thanking them for working so hard and going out of their way every day to keep things going."
Phillis Engelbert, co-owner of the Lunch Room, was thrilled to receive a couple of gift cards from Thankful Townie in March.
"It's just something that's so nice and fun and positive and uplifting," says Engelbert. "And it's great when someone can be recognized for good deeds. I'd been a fan of Thankful Townie, so when we got the letter, it felt like an honor ... It's like a wonderful little extra surprise to brighten your day."
Engelbert gave the Lunch Room's gift cards to employees: one who was headed out on a date and one who had done great work that day.
"The concept of gratitude is something that is important and often lacking in our society, so to spread that sentiment, like Thankful Townie is doing--I'm hoping
it's infectious, and that others will jump on the gratitude bandwagon. It makes life so much nicer," says Engelbert.
Mary Morgan, former co-editor of the Ann Arbor Chronicle and creator of the CivCity Initiative, also was recognized by the Thankful Townie.
"Who doesn't like getting thanked with a gift card?" asks Morgan. "... And I'm glad [Townie's] continued to do it. A lot of projects that are really cool last a few months, and then they disappear, so it's great that [Townie] does it consistently. There are a lot of people in town to thank."
"The Townie" Facebook page identifies her only by gender. In real life, she is an impassioned community member who frequents local businesses and events but has no (previous or current) professional affiliation with them. So why wish to remain anonymous? Especially when the occasional, ironic result is that one past recipient unknowingly nominated the Townie herself for recognition?
"Because it's not about me; it's about what's happening in town," says Townie. "And this way, if I can't do it, someone else could. ... It doesn't matter who's doing it. It matters that it gets done.
"I just wanted to do something nice," says Townie. "I love this town. It's been so good to me, and so accepting and loving toward me, that I felt like I should do something to give a little back."
[Originally published in July, 2017.]
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