giving away free donuts on Black Friday

Hundreds of Donuts, Thousands of Dollars

Michigan man continues a uniquely charitable Thanksgiving tradition

When Thanksgiving rolls around, most people think of turkey. Not Josh Eikenberry. For Eikenberry, Thanksgiving is the season of donuts. For the last nine years, the Michigan man has made it his mission to show up for the retail workers trapped at work on Thanksgiving night and the wee hours of Black Friday—some of whom are forced to miss Thanksgiving dinner with their families in order to pull shifts at work. But Eikenberry doesn’t just show up—he brings donuts.

“I delivered up in Ann Arbor this year because I live up here now,” Eikenberry told Good Turns recently. What he delivers are free donuts—starting Thanksgiving night after dinner and continuing until five or six the next morning—to anyone stuck at work. “I decided to focus on the University of Michigan Hospital, and then the mall, which had like 50 stores open. I just handed out donuts until they went away.”

“Small actions multiplied thousands of times makes everything a little bit better”

When we’ve caught up with Eikenberry in years past—as we did last year, the year before, and for our first post the year before that—he had been focusing his donut-donating efforts on Monroe, Michigan. His annual bout of altruism also features a donation drive, which raises money for the food bank and other programs at the Monroe County Opportunity Program (MCOP). This year, he says, “It was another success. We raised $3,055 for the food bank. That brings our lifetime total to a little over $10,000 donated.”

“This was the first year I was doing it up in Ann Arbor, so people didn’t know anything about it,” Eikenberry said. “I got a lot of positive responses. Store managers [such as the Old Navy manager pictured above, right, with Eikenberry, left] always want to take a selfie.”

This was also the first year that donations were tax deductible, through a partnership with the MCOP that meant that all funds donated went straight to the charity. Eikenberry even got a corporate donation from his employer, Criteo.

“This was our most successful one to date,” Eikenberry says. “I’m also starting to make it more official.” So far, that has taken the form of the Donut-A-Palooza page on Facebook. But Eikenberry is now trying to cook up “more ridiculous, wacky things throughout the year,” and would like to find a way to expand his efforts into other areas.

In particular, he is interested in helping pay off kids’ school lunch debt. “In the schools I went to growing up, your parents had to pay for hot lunches every month,” Eikenberry recalls. “If they didn’t pay, you still got some, but a debt would accrue. Then after a while you just wouldn’t get any food, or you’d get a really shitty peanut-butter sandwich.”

“It’s really shameful for the kid,” Eikenberry says. “Kids are aware of which kid is getting the government PB&J. It’s an embarrassing thing for a lot of kids. Often a parent can’t pay, or they won’t pay, or they’re not there to pay. So for a lot of kids, their meals at school are the only meals they have. So paying off those lunch debts helps a little bit. It’s like the donuts, it’s a small thing, but it means a lot to a certain person. It breaks my heart every time.”

“I want to expand this into a whole enterprise repeating small deeds over and over again,” Eikenberry says. “If I can turn the Donut-A-Palooza into a 501(c)(3), that would be dope. It makes the world a better place. Small actions multiplied thousands of times makes everything a little bit better.”

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