Angela Nguyen worked long shifts at Domino's pizza, delivering orders to customers with a smile on her face. But after one fateful shift, she found herself delivering more than just another pizza...
The protagonist of our story is a young woman from Anoka County, Minnesota, named Angela Nguyen. Her job as a pizza delivery driver at Domino's wasn't easy, but she enjoyed interacting with customers.
Angela always liked to work with people - especially when it came to helping them and benefitting her community. Before she started working at Domino's, the Minnesota native had a job helping people with HIV and AIDS care for their homes. But soon, all of that changed.
On A Mission
After her employer shut down the department she worked in, Angela soon found herself without a job. Forced to search for a new occupation, she looked for things she could do that would help others. And it wasn't long before she began to receive other job offers.
One of these offers provided as much assistance to Angela's community as she could possibly hope to give. An unemployed Angela Nguyen was offered an opportunity to work at a hospice. But she had a secret that stood in her way of accepting the offer...
A Tragic History
"[Bosses] offered me another position with [a] hospice," Angela told The Atlantic in 2016. But as much as she wished she could accept it, she ultimately couldn't imagine herself working there. It was a tragedy she couldn't bear to relive once again in her life.
Something that happened in Angela's personal life made the idea of working at a hospice too difficult for her. "I had a daughter that had died while I was working for Minnesota Visiting Nurses, and it was just too difficult for me to think of going to work with other people that were dying. So I left," she explained.
Her Daughter Had an Idea
But after spending some time uncertain about what she wanted to do moving forward, Angela's eldest daughter, Sarah, came to her mother's rescue. Sarah was already an employee at a nearby Domino's restaurant. So she suggested the idea that her mother gets a job there as well.
Normally, Angela would have preferred to do something she was certain would benefit her community. However, after weighing her options, she realized that there were some advantages to her daughter's idea. By taking the job, she could be helping her own family.
A New Chapter Begins
Sarah, who had children of her own, needed to make sure someone could babysit them while she was at work. So, the two women figured they could work opposite shifts at the restaurant so that there would always be someone at home to look after the children. All seemed well - so far...
So, Angela decided to work a part-time job as a pizza delivery driver at the Domino's restaurant with her daughter. But her new job at the pizza chain had her working long and sometimes exhausting shifts. Nonetheless, as tiring as it was, her job was also rewarding.
One Particular Delivery
Angela loved working with the customers and delivering their food to them. Seeing the smiles on their faces when their food arrived was well worth it. Getting to talk to the customers and make sure they were satisfied with their orders made her happy.
Nguyen was fond of one particular customer: a 76-year-old man named Lee Haase, who lived in a trailer in the outskirts of Anoka County, Minnesota. He made a weekly order from the pizza chain, and so she looked forward to delivering his food to him every Saturday.
A Strange Request
According to Angela, Lee was pretty punctual about his orders, too. "He likes to order every Saturday," she told USA Today in 2015. "About 10:15 a.m., you are going to get an order from Lee." But although Lee always seemed happy to pick up his order from Angela, she could tell something wasn't right.
Every week, Angela would deliver Lee's order to a mysterious trailer that seemed a bit strange from the outside. Little did she know, it didn't even compare to what was hidden on the other side of those walls. But we're not there just yet. So, let's take a closer look at Lee's life behind closed doors.
Lee's life before Angela ever met him was filled with darkness. The 76-year-old man had had a difficult past, having endured one heartbreak after another. It all started when a terrible storm that happened at the beginning of that year caused a huge tree to fall and destroy the poor man's home.
Unfortunately, the damage caused by the tree wasn't something that Lee could afford to fix, so he was forced to leave his home behind. This is the sad story of how he ended up in a decrepit trailer on the fringes of the Minnesota town. But his situation grew even worse...
Not What It Seems
Soon after moving into the trailer, Lee lost something much more valuable than his house. Sadly, his son was tragically killed in a snowmobiling accident later the same year. The poor elderly man, now without a son or a proper home to live in, became severely depressed.
But somehow, it never showed on his face. Every time Angela or Sarah would go up to the old trailer to hand Lee a warm pizza, the man would greet them with a cheerful smile. Little did they know, the inside of the trailer did not reflect his seemingly positive mood...
Usually, Sarah or Angela would deliver Lee's pizzas to him outside, and what was going on inside the trailer was never visible to them. However, Sarah was working the Saturday morning shift when the elderly man placed an order, and this time delivering the food was a little different...
As she delivered the elderly man's food to him, Sarah managed to get a glimpse of how this man had been living all this time inside the trailer. If the exterior appearance of the trailer made it seem old and difficult to live in, the inside of it was indescribable.
The Unbearable Truth
Shocked by what she'd seen, Sarah hurried home after her shift to tell her mother about her experience. After hearing what her daughter told her, Angela was speechless - she had never imagined this elderly man's living conditions could be so unbearable.
For starters, the 10-foot-long trailer didn't have electricity, so this elderly man didn't have lights or any electronic devices in his home - not to mention proper heating. Not only that, but he didn't even have a gas stovetop to prepare meals for himself.
A Race Against Time
Besides having no electricity, Lee's trailer also lacked heat and plumbing. Since there was no way for him to cook food for himself, he ordered a pizza from Domino's every week. Angela wondered how the elderly man would be able to live without heat when winter rolled around...
The compassionate Angela knew she couldn't just let it go. She was afraid for the elderly man's health and safety and knew she had to do something to help his situation. He wouldn't be able to survive without electricity in the trailer in freezing weather, so she and her daughter set out to save their new friend.
"We Got to Do Something"
"I thought, 'We got to do something,'" Angela told USA Today. "We got to do something. We can't let a human being live like this." Not only did she buy a heater for Lee to use in his trailer, but she also thought of what she could do about his weekly Domino's pizza orders.
"[The pizzas are] what [Lee] would live on on the weekends because he was elderly and couldn't get Meals on Wheels," Angela told The Atlantic. Angela couldn't imagine what it was like to rely on food deliveries to survive every day, so she tried helping as much as she could.
Lending a Helping Hand
"I would look forward to delivering to him and just being a little ray of sunshine to him every Saturday morning, saying, 'How are you doing, Lee?' Sometimes, I would stop at the store and grab him a hot cup of coffee and a doughnut before I’d go there with his pizza."
But Angela knew it wasn't enough. She needed to help Lee move out of the trailer and find better living conditions. That's when she had the idea of setting up a GoFundMe page for the elderly man. But she had no idea things would pan out the way that they soon did...
On The Right Track
As it turned out, people from across the world had heard about Lee's situation and were eager to help in any way they could. "We got donations from as far as Australia," she told USA Today. It warmed her heart to know that Lee was finally on track to having the life he deserved.
Soon enough, the elderly man would see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just two months after setting up the GoFundMe page, Angela had already helped Lee raise more than $32,000! Already seeing the success of her idea to help the poor man, she started to plan the next steps...
The Domino's employee used the money she raised to buy her favorite customer a new home! Not only that, but the local community was kind enough to donate furniture to fill Lee's new house with. Pretty soon, the house was ready for Angela and Sarah to surprise Lee with.
Thanks to footage released from the YouTube channel Humankind, we were able to see Lee's reaction when he took a first look at his new fully-furnished home. Safe to say, Angela and Sarah's hard work had paid off. And they got to be there, by his side, for the big reveal.
The Moment of Truth
He didn't take his first steps into his new home alone - Lee was surrounded by Angela and local volunteers who had all pitched in to turn his new home from a vision into reality. As Lee walked through the door, he looked around in surprise and began to take it all in.
Sitting in his new living room, Lee could hardly believe his eyes. In the video, Sarah can be seen giving him a hug. "You remember when this started, and I promised you we were going to help you?" she asked the elderly man, as tears began to fill her eyes.
After his initial feeling of surprise began to fade away, the camera crew managed to get a reaction from Lee. "It's wonderful," he could later be heard telling them. "I'm so grateful for [the] people doing this." We're certain it warmed Angela's heart to hear those words.
Angela later gave Lee a tour of his new home. The kind Domino's pizza delivery driver pointed out that Lee had an abundance of food stored in his kitchen for future use. This way, he could prepare homemade meals for himself instead of ordering food every week.
A Life-Changing Surprise
Now that Lee had the proper equipment and ingredients to cook food for himself, his living situation improved significantly. Gone were the days when his only dining options were the meals on the menus of nearby restaurants. His life had changed completely.
In the video, Lee could be seen touring the house, using his rollator to navigate his way from one room to the next. Viewers were also able to see that the house was filled with counters, cabinets, and closets - luxuries that Lee didn't have in his prior, 10-foot-long trailer.
With the help of donations from across the world, it wasn't only Lee's kitchen that received a significant upgrade. Now, he had a proper bathroom and shower to use as well. Also, his bedroom in the new house was the size of the entire trailer he used to live in before.
Looking around, Lee couldn't believe the kindness of Angela, Sarah, and everyone who had pitched in any kind of assistance - whether it was financial or physical. He would be eternally grateful for the compassion these Domino's employees had towards an elderly stranger.
The Ultimate Christmas Gift
But it wasn't only new furniture that adorned the interior of Lee's new home. In the video, countless festive Christmas decorations filled the inside of the house. It brings happiness to our hearts to learn that the community's efforts saved this man's living situation - just in time for the holiday season.
We couldn't imagine what would have happened to Lee had he been unable to avoid the harsh and inevitable freezing temperatures that were approaching. Lacking electricity or any source of heat, that trailer wouldn't be able to keep him safe and healthy during the Minnesota winter.
Coming Full Circle
The heartwarming video also showed Lee singing Christmas carols with these helpful members of his community whose selflessness and compassion changed this man's life for the better. And Angela had a message that made the moment all the more touching.
"Every single one of us enjoyed doing this," the kind woman told the camera crew. "This ain't all for Lee. We all benefited." In a strange way, Angela could say that her job at Domino's as a pizza delivery driver ended up leading her to exactly where she wanted to be in the first place.
More Good Deeds
Although Angela continued to work at the pizza place, her motivation to help others and benefit her community didn't stop after she gave Lee a new home. Her benevolent attitude had her searching for ways to help other Domino's customers she met during her shifts.
Soon enough, the Domino's employee found another customer who could greatly benefit from a good deed. "Another customer's daughter just had surgery for Crohn's disease and was very, very ill, and the mother was out of work," Angela Nguyen told The Atlantic.
Another Family Saved
Using a similar method to what she had done to help Lee, Angela got to work doing what she could to assist the family. “I started a GoFundMe for her, and we are getting enough donations that her mother doesn’t have to worry about going back to work right now,” Angela explained.
She added that receiving money would help the struggling family find the time to focus on the patient's health. "She can just stay home and take care of her daughter," Angela said. Her efforts really did help change people's lives - and it all started with Lee.
"He Stood Out"
The elderly man had really shown Angela Nguyen that she could always find ways to lend a helping hand to others, no matter what her occupation was. After Lee moved into his new home, the Domino's employee noticed something change about her Saturday shifts...
"[Lee] really stood out for quite some time and doesn't order for delivery anymore because he's got a stove and a refrigerator and a microwave," Angela said, referring to the frequent customer she had gotten used to seeing every week. "Yeah, he stood out for a very long time."
The Heroes of a Community
Needless to say, the news of Angela's kindness towards a person she only knew from her pizza deliveries spread to many others. Her good deeds helped portray that fast-food workers are the heroes of the community - and deserve a lot more credit than they're usually given.
Soon, other fast-food restaurants - even ones outside the Domino's chain - began taking a few pages out of Angela's book. The ripple effect of Angela and Sarah's hard work alongside other members of their community made it possible for more people in need to receive help from locals.
The Harsh Reality
Angela Nguyen's job at Domino's would never have been her first choice had it been possible to do something more community-related. She told The Atlantic that, as a pizza delivery driver, she relied a lot on tips - since the $9.50 minimum wage in Minnesota wasn't enough.
"Sometimes you'll go make two or three or four deliveries, and people just aren't tipping. It happens quite often, and then it's very easy to get really crabby as a delivery driver because we don't always make enough money to cover our gas if customers aren't tipping us," she explained.
However, Angela seemed to have finally found her calling, delivering pizza to customers and meeting new people. For her, that was the most important part of the job and the only thing that truly mattered. She loved interacting with people and helping in any way she could.
When she was asked about the most challenging part of her job, Angela responded by explaining that working her shifts in bad weather could impact her mood sometimes. "Hopefully, they'll understand, but sometimes you just get people that are having a bad day, and you have to deal with it the best you can," she said.
More Than a Job
As for the most rewarding part of her job, Angela shared that it was the happy interactions she had with customers. Like she did for Lee, the Domino's employee always wanted to make sure people were satisfied. She did what she could to brighten people's days.
The best part about working those long shifts, she said, was "just seeing somebody smile or just hearing a thank you and having them know my name. 'Oh, Nguyen, thanks. Nice to see you again.' They remember me as a person and not just a delivery driver."
A Heartwarming Lesson
One thing that's clear after following Angela and her daughter Sarah's journey is that no matter where we go, it's always possible to shine a light of our own on the people around us. And in every situation, any kind of help goes a long way - even with the smallest of gestures.
Thanks to Angela Nguyen and her daughter, an elderly man was able to say goodbye to a difficult life in a cold, dark trailer with no food. We're hoping he'll be able to spend many healthy and happy years in his new, warm home -surrounded by neighbors with hearts as kind as Angela's.