When Evoni Williams walked into work at Waffle House one fateful Saturday morning, she had no idea that a random chain of events was about to change her life. But that's precisely what ended up happening.
The Popular Chain
Welcome to Waffle House, an iconic American restaurant chain famous for its fast service and delicious breakfast food. The franchise's Texas locations are no exception, and that's where this story began.
What started as a typical morning in the popular restaurant turned out to be extraordinary, landing a Texan Waffle House employee on multiple headlines. But let's rewind to a few days before that, when the whole saga first began with an innocent - and hungry - customer.
A Regular Costumer
Meet Laura Wolf, a big fan of Waffle House. The La Marque, Texas resident spent plenty of time at her local franchise, enjoying the delicious food, warm coffee, and good service. Having breakfast at Waffle House was nothing out of the ordinary for Laura.
Little did Wolf know that one day, her meal at Waffle House would be far from ordinary. A breakfast that began like so many others led to a chain of events that proved life-changing for some of the people involved. It all started on the morning of March 3, 2018...
A Full House
Laura lived in La Marque, a Texan city with roughly 16,600 residents. The local Waffle House had a reputation for quick food and good service. But even with its popularity in mind, Wolf was surprised at how busy the eatery was on the morning of March 3.
It was a Saturday morning, and families and couples filled the Waffle House. As Laura enjoyed one of her usuals, she observed streams of people coming in and out of the restaurant. All of the staff was hard at work keeping up with the patrons. And one waitress ultimately caught Wolf's eye.
One of the Waitresses
The La Marque Waffle House was probably staffed at full capacity on that bustling Saturday morning. Among the many chefs, bussers, hosts, and waiters was one young woman named Evoni Williams, better known by the restaurant staff and clients as "Nini."
Evoni had been working at Waffle House for a couple of years when that fateful day arrived. A hard worker and beloved by both patrons and coworkers, Nini spent that morning serving non-stop. "Evoni always has a smile on her face," said her manager Mundarius Wright.
Waffle House might've been like a home away from home for Nini. Having worked there for a long time already, she was friendly with all of the staff and the regulars. But being a restaurant employee was not a part of her long-term life plan. Evoni had big dreams.
She worked at the local Waffle House to save up money for her studies. Shift after shift, Nini worked hard and made sure to be friendly to get those tips. Every dollar brought her a little closer to going to college. Evoni had no idea that soon, none of that would matter.
Lots of Tips
When Evoni got to work on March 3, she knew there was a long morning ahead. But the young employee also realized that busy and exhausting days were a chance to make a lot of tips and save up a bit more money than expected. So Nini got to work without a second thought.
Every time she grew tired of taking orders, arguing with the kitchen, or interacting with grumpy clients, Evoni reminded herself what the long-term goal was: money for school. Nini dreamed of studying business management and ultimately owning her own restaurant.
Another Regular, Mr. Karaoke
As Evoni made her way from one side of the restaurant to another, carrying mugs of coffee and dirty plates, she noticed one of the La Marque Waffle House regulars. Adrien, better known by the locals as Mr. Karaoke, usually made a weekly visit to the eatery.
On March 3, Mr. Karaoke came to the eatery at around ten in the morning. In the last months, his time at the Waffle House had become a bit more sporadic. Even so, Adrien didn't expect anything out of the ordinary to happen. And that's where he was wrong.
Struggling With His Health
There was a serious reason why Mr. Karaoke's visits to Waffle House were inconsistent as of late: the 78-year-old was battling some serious health struggles. "I have been in and out of the hospital for the past five weeks," Adrien shared. "It started with pneumonia."
But once the pneumonia went away, other issues popped up. By March 3, Mr. Karaoke carried an oxygen tank practically at all times, including in the Waffle House. But aside from that, this felt like another regular visit to a delicious breakfast joint... for now.
He Whispered Something to Evoni
Evoni was familiar with Mr. Karaoke and knew, as much of the Waffle House Staff, that he had been in and out of the hospital with health issues. But seeing him at the restaurant, Nini assumed that Adrien was doing well that day and came to enjoy a hardy breakfast.
Evoni hardly had time to greet the regular as she was so busy keeping up with the morning's demands. But always attentive to everything happening around her, Nini quickly noticed that Adrien was calling her over. Mr. Karaoke whispered something to the young waitress.
Neither Evoni nor Mr. Karaoke noticed there was a third person paying attention to their interaction: Laura, a fellow regular, sat in a nearby booth. As Wolf glanced around the restaurant, the conversation between Nini and Adrien snagged her attention.
The waitress and the customer were totally focused on each other. Laura couldn't help but wonder what had them both so intrigued. Wolf tried eavesdropping, but because she was so far from Nini and Adrien, and the pair was whispering, she couldn't hear much.
The Exchange Continued
Laura wasn't the only one struggling to hear the conversation. Evoni herself could hardly figure out what Mr. Karaoke was trying to tell her. The Waffle House was beyond crowded, and Nini struggled to hear what the patron whispered, just as Laura did.
But Evoni didn't give up: her customer needed something, and she did not plan on moving until the situation was resolved. Unfortunately, Mr. Karaoke sat at the bar, which meant he was right between all of the customers and the kitchen - AKA extra noisy.
What Did He Need?
Adrien didn't speak too loudly because he didn't want other people to hear. But that meant the person he talked to could hardly listen to him, either. But Nini remained patient as she tried to figure out what Adrien needed. But he wasn't the only one demanding the waitress's presence.
Other patrons waited for Evoni to get back to them, as well as coworkers. As she leaned closer towards Mr. Karaoke to hear his whispering, one of the line cooks screamed Nini's name, afraid that the food waiting for her would get cold. But Evoni stayed focused on Adrien.
Laura Started Recording
Laura continued watching and wondered what Mr. Karaoke could possibly be saying to Nini. What was so important that the waitress was willing to neglect the rest of her duties? The curious customer would soon get some answers as the situation developed.
Laura thought about the possibilities. Maybe Mr. Karaoke had an issue with his meal? Finally, it seemed Evoni understood whatever it was that Adrien said. But then something unexpected happened, and Laura whipped out her phone - never imagining the consequences of her actions.
Not the Only Camera
Mr. Karaoke slid his plate across the counter towards Evoni. And when the waitress didn't just grab the plate and take it back to the kitchen, Laura realized that something unique was happening right before her and took out her phone to record the moment.
Adrien and Nini were in a world of their own and didn't notice the curious customer with her phone camera out. The pair had no idea that they were being filmed on two cameras: Laura's phone and the Waffle House video footage. Their interaction was about to change both of their lives.
Laura Was Shocked
But had Laura not been there to observe, things would've turned out entirely different. The Waffle House lover couldn't believe her eyes as she watched what went down between Nini and Mr. Karaoke. Out of all of the times she'd been to the eatery, nothing like this ever happened before.
"It was so busy in here, you know," Laura said. "And she actually like took the time to stop and to hear what he had to say instead of walking past him. And that just meant something to me." Evoni passed back Adrien's meal and quickly carried on with her duties.
What Went Down
The waitress tended to the abandoned plate of food by the kitchen and checked in on her other tables. Nini had no idea that nearby, Laura stared at her in awe and wondered what to do with what she had just filmed between Mr. Karaoke and Evoni. Wolf never imagined that that's what he whispered.
Adrien had asked Nini for help cutting his food. "My hands are not up to par. If I wanna cut my meat, I gotta look like I'm stabbing it," Mr. Karaoke detailed. "I can hold a fork fine and dandy, but to cut it looks like I'm going to stab somebody." What did Nini say?
She Did It
Adrien had trouble cutting because of his developing health issues. "I had no coordination, no feeling, strength in my hands," he explained. Nini recalled, "He was like, 'My hands are not functioning too well.' He needed me to cut his food, so I did."
"I was just like, 'Sure! If you need help, that's what I am here for,'" Nini said. "My cook was calling my name to pick up food I had on the board, but I continued to cut his ham." Evoni cut Mr. Karaoke's food into small pieces and returned the plate, not giving it much more thought than that.
Laura Put It on Facebook
While Nini moved on with her day and forgot all about the favor, it was all Laura could think about. She even posted a picture of the interaction on her Facebook. "I don't know her name," the caption began, before then detailing how Evoni helped Adrien.
"Without hesitation, she took his plate and began cutting up his ham," Wolf wrote. "This may seem small, but to him, I'm sure it was huge. I'm thankful to have seen this act of kindness and caring at the start of my day while everything in this world seems so negative."
It Went Viral
Laura felt inspired by what she witnessed between Evoni and Adrien. She didn't tell either of them that their picture was now on Facebook with a detailed caption about them, but Wolf just couldn't fight the need to share the story with as many people as possible.
"If we could all be like this waitress and take time to offer a lending hand..." she wrote to Facebook friends. And it quickly became evident that Laura wasn't the only one who found the whole situation heartwarming: it wasn't long before the post went viral.
Time in the Limelight
Laura's phone blew up as people liked and commented on the photo. And as her friends shared it on their own Facebook pages, Wolf's post got more and more feedback. After a few days, the picture of Nini and Mr. Karaoke had tens of thousands of likes and comments.
"Somebody told me a few days later that I was very popular because they got me on Facebook," Adrien recalled. He jokingly added, "And they got a fancy picture of my suspenders in the back." Evoni got just as much - if not more - attention. She never imagined what it would lead to.
The Mayor Heard of Evoni
It was safe to say that Evoni's act of kindness was officially the talk of the town. It got so popular that even La Marque's then-mayor, Bobby Hocking, heard about the young waitress who helped Mr. Karaoke at Waffle House. "Somebody tagged me [in the post]," he recalled.
"And it immediately, it just touched my heart," Bobby added. "It's so wonderful that the younger generation cares about the older generation." After seeing the picture and reading the story, he "immediately felt in my spirit that I needed to do something for her," Hocking explained.
A Special Visit
Mayor Bobby Hocking felt inspired by the sweet story, just like the tens of thousands of people who liked and commented on social media. So he decided to pay a visit to the local Waffle House and share his appreciation for Nini face-to-face. Cameras and local news stations showed up for the big event.
"It's always refreshing in this day and age to see the younger generation helping the older generation," Hocking said to the people at Waffle House during his visit. "Because our young generation is not always cast in the best light. It never gets old seeing young people help." And that wasn't all...
A Town Holiday
La Marque was so taken aback by the waitress's kindness that Bobby felt something big needed to be done. He wanted to show Nini their appreciation for her in more ways than a one-time speech at the Texan Waffle House. And he had the perfect way to do it.
The mayor declared that every March 8 in La Marque was officially Evoni "Nini" Williams Day. "There's a lot of love in La Marque, Texas, and we intend to perpetuate that," Hocking said. "I have my own day," Nini gushed. "I'm happy." And as it turned out, this was only the beginning.
Evoni was overwhelmed by the virality of Laura's post and by the mayor's visit. "I wasn't really expecting none of this," she admitted. "Because I didn't think anyone seen it. It was just little ol' me going about the day." For her, March 8 had been just another day at Waffle House.
Helping Mr. Karaoke after he asked was her natural reaction. "I would want someone to help my grandmother or grandfather," Nini reflected. "Just try to help others as little or as much as you can. It doesn't take much." Little did Evoni know, she was about to be awarded big time for her actions.
Another Extraordinary Message
Mayor Bobby Hocking wasn't the only influential person around town who heard about the story taking the internet by storm. Some people at the nearby Texas Southern University also saw the viral post and felt touched by Evoni's generous approach to life.
Soon enough, the then-president of TSU sent her a special message. "I was so impressed when I saw the story on ABC 13 about your act of kindness," Austin A. Lane said in a video to Evoni. And that wasn't all the university official had in store for the young woman.
Surprise Number Two
Following Mayor Bobby Hocking's visit to the La Marque Waffle House was another memorable event. This time, two representatives from Texas Southern University came by. And they brought a $16,000 scholarship check with them, paid to the order of Evoni Williams.
"We wanted to reward Evoni's act of kindness and let her know that good deeds do not go unnoticed," said Melinda Spaulding, an administrator at Texas Southern University. "She has the character of the type of students we want at Texas Southern University."
Those Who Made It Happen
In just a matter of days, Nini's life looked drastically different. She worked to save up for college for years, and now Evoni had a $16,000 scholarship check in her hands. Laura and Mr. Karaoke watched as Nini got the well-deserved money for school.
And the truth was that without Laura, there was no guarantee that all of these blessings would come Nini's way. "It touched me," Wolf said of the moment she recorded. "Because she's so young... you just don't always see something like this." And there was still more in store for Evoni.
"I got a scholarship to TSU," Nini proudly said. But in Laura's eyes, the generous waitress deserved more than $16,000. So the viral user started a GoFundMe for Evoni's college education. "We all know how expensive college education is," Wolfe wrote on the fundraising page.
"The scholarship is a start but we all know it will not cover all tuition, books and fees," she continued. "Nini is so deserving!! ... Let's help this young lady rise to the top, achieve her goals and become a business owner." Laura hoped that they would raise enough money to cover most of Nini's college expenses.
It Was No Big Deal
All of La Marque was in awe of Evoni's act of kindness. The mayor, Texas Southern University, and local news stations praised her. Most importantly, her Waffle House customer appreciated her. "It means a lot. I need help, and the waitresses issue it to me," Mr. Karaoke said.
But for Nini, it was no big deal. "I was never raised to, you know, bash people or anything. I was raised to help, and to try to give, and to receive, give blessings," she explained. "I don't know. It was something I would do any other day." Cutting Adrien's food landed her in the spotlight, but the act was just another day in the life for Evoni.
Making Waffle House Proud
And with so much recognition and praise thrown Nini's way, it was only a matter of time before the famous franchise sent their appreciation, too. The restaurant's national headquarters heard about their employee's good deed and took to social media to thank her.
"We are so proud of Evoni! We appreciate her dedication to caring for her customers! Thank you @TexasSouthern for also recognizing her good works. She is an All-Star!" Waffle House News tweeted. It's safe to say that a bit of kindness can go a long way.