The storefront of Steve and Peggy Milby's dry cleaning business blends into the landscape of strip malls and vacant lots off of Dunedin's Bayshore Boulevard.
With Florida's unemployment rate hovering around 8.1 percent, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the small business owners asked themselves what, if anything, could they do to help.
Then, a sign.
Three months ago, Steve Milby added a large white sign in the window of Causeway Cleaners, his 25-year business tucked snugly in the far corner of Causeway Plaza. It sticks out among a clutter of colorful stickers and miniature suction-cupped signs honoring his dogs, who've also worked there. The sign contains a heartening message in large, red capital letters:
IF YOU ARE UNEMPLOYED & NEED AN OUTFIT CLEANED FOR A INTERVIEW WE WILL DO IT FOR FREE
It didn't take long for word of the sign to spread, especially among Milby's loyal customer base, 60 percent of which Steve knows on a first-name basis.
"I believe in karma," he explained.
Milby arrived to work one recent Sunday morning, much like he does every day, only this day he found an envelope under the door.
The words "Pay it Forward" were handwritten on the outside.
Inside was an anonymous note and two $5 bills. Its message revealed support for the sign he'd hung in his window:
Dear Causeway Cleaners,
It is a wonderful thing you are doing for the unemployed.
It isn't much but I would like to help. Maybe it will pay for one!
Keep paying it forward.
Milby was touched.
"I think people are looking for a reason to feel good in their heart," he said.
He's cleaned one outfit so far, and he sewed buttons on another that he isn't sure was needed for a job interview. But he didn't think twice about it.
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