Several years ago Deanne Fried stopped in a Red Lobster in Rochester with her brother for lunch as their mother recuperated from surgery. As they were eating their feast of seafood, an elderly couple from the hospital sat down in the booth behind them and began to discuss the menu options.
She overheard the gentleman express that he really wanted to order the salmon. His wife replied that he could only get half a salmon, because they only had 15 dollars.
Deanna called their waitress over and asked her to please order the gentleman the full salmon and she would pick up their tab. She also requested that the waitress keep her gift confidential.
The waitress delivered their meals, taking full responsibility for the “mistake” she made while placing their order and telling the couple that they would only be charged for the half salmon, not the full salmon.
Throughout dinner, Deanne said she could not help but overhear the elderly couple’s conversation conveying financial hardship.
She asked the waitress to tell the elderly couple that their entire dinner, including dessert, had been paid for, without disclosing who had paid for their meal.
As Deanne and her brother put on their coats to leave the restaurant, she heard the woman say, “Well, I hope they didn’t get charged for the ‘full’ salmon!”
Deanne said it was the most amazing feeling to help that couple and see what an impact it had and how grateful they were for the random act of kindness.
“It was just so powerful and a reminder to me of how fortunate and blessed I am,” Deanne said.
After that incident she said she was changed forever.
That night, instead of sleeping, Deanne was up for hours researching charities and anonymous donors.
When she arrived back in California, Deanne went to work setting up Your Secret Donor, which received its charity status from the Internal Revenue Service rather quickly.
Giving out gifts anonymously is what Your Secret Donor does. The organization was founded with a mission to “bring relief, give hope and share love by seeking out and anonymously gifting those in need.”
The organization, made up of five board members including Deanne, connects with organizations such as schools, community centers and hospitals through partnership agreements. That organization then becomes a “seeker” for Your Secret Donor, bringing the charities attention to someone with a specific need.
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A messenger then delivers the gift to the unsuspecting recipient.
“The gifts are very random, but we would never know of any of these recipients without our seekers,” Deanne said.
Anonymous gifts have included purchasing a bed, covering a dental bill, buying a motorized scooter for someone who had suffered a stroke, a prepaid cell phone for a job hunter, glasses for disadvantaged children, covering pet medical bills, paying rent and more.
Although the gifting is anonymous, the organization is not. Recently an anonymous donor put up a matching grant of $250,000.
“We are very random, but we are helping individuals, pets, homeless people and children,” Deanne said. “We are making a difference and we want people to know that we are here.”
The organization has seekers in New York, Oregon, Minnesota, Arizona, California, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
The gifts are paid for through donations from individuals or organizations.
“When it comes to the gifts there is a lot of research involved,” Deanne explained. “We want it to have an impact on an individual. We don’t want to make it a band aid fix and that’s why there is so much research involved.”
Deanne grew up in Sleepy Eye the daughter of Phyllis Nelson and James Sellner. She graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1983 and moved out to California.
Deanne’s career as a costume designer in the movie and TV industry spans over 25 years. Currently she is semi-retired and has devoted her time between taking care of her family and Your Secret Donor.
Deanne, her husband, Joel and their three children reside in La Canada, Calif., 15 minutes outside of Los Angeles.
For more information about Your Secret Donor, visit the website at www.yoursecretdonor.org