Bad things happen to good people.
Fortunately, we occasionally find good people who step up to make a difference.
Saturday about 6:50 p.m., two women arrived at Victoria's Ristorante & Wine Bar on First Avenue Southwest in Rochester and placed a complicated take-out order, according to a Rochester police report.
RPD Capt. Casey Moilanen said that when the person taking the order went to the kitchen to ensure the complicated order was made correctly, the women went through the cashier stand and grabbed an envelope containing approximately $300 worth of tips.
The women paid for the food when it was brought out. It was later that staff noticed the tip envelope missing.
Hearing that story on Sunday, five boys from nearby Viola decided to help out the restaurant staff by donating $200 to cover the stolen money.
"We just wanted to help them out," said 11-year-old Carter Shea. "With all of their hard work and they didn’t get to have they money they earned. And we like to donate."
In fact, Carter and his brothers — Bennett Shea, age 9, and Rowan Shea, age 6 — and their cousins — two brothers, Ryan Shea, 17, and Bronson Shea, 13 — all agreed to pool their money to make up for the lost tips.
The cousins heard about the robbery Sunday while planning on ordering from Victoria's to celebrate Ryan's birthday, said Missy Shea, Carter's and Bronson's mom.
"We got together for the Vikings game yesterday," Missy Shea said. "It was Ryan’s 17th birthday, and one of his requests was his favorite meal, which is Victoria's."
The cousins have a couple of ties to the longtime Rochester eatery. Two of their aunts work at the restaurant. Also, the boys, who have run a sweet corn business each of the last three summers, often sell sweet corn to staff members during the season.
Bronson Shea said that in addition to having family who works at the restaurant, the staff feel like friends as well.
So, when the boys read on social media about the robbery, they felt they had to do something. As owners of their own business – the boys sell sweet corn each summer from the family dairy farm located just west of Viola on Viola Road Northeast – they knew it can be tough facing a loss of income.
Natalie Victoria, co-owner of the restaurant, said it's been a tough year financially for the staff due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Waitstaff aren't making the kind of tip money they normally do, she said, and the holidays in particular have been tough because no one is booking company Christmas parties, which usually are big money-makers for restaurants that cater to big parties like Victoria's usually would.
Missy Shea, along with her husband Tom Shea, said they and her in-laws let the boys run the sweet corn business as an opportunity to learn business responsibility. Part of that responsibility, she said, is giving back to the community.
"They’re learning the ins and outs of owning a business, profit and loss, income and expenses," she said. "They're picking corn morning and night. They're involved in the planting process. The whole nine yards."
Mindy and Jason Shea said the boys donate sweet corn to churches for fundraisers or to silent auctions.
"One of the great things about having them do the corn business is teaching them the value of giving back," Mindy Shea said.
"The whole notion of business helping business, and local helping local in the pandemic, that’s the beauty in this thing," Victoria said.
When the boys dropped off the money and a card to the staff Sunday evening, Victoria said it was one of those "fall on your knees" moments of thanks.
"We were all shocked," she said. "It was really heartwarming."
Carter Shea said the staff was pretty happy. "They said, 'Thank you, you boys are going to go far in life,'" he said.
Having learned to do the right thing, that's a safe bet.