Islandia bagel shop customers prepay meals for others

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ISLANDIA -

An Islandia bagel store is encouraging customers to pay it forward with a system for donating meals to others.

On the New York Bagel Company's donation wall, customers can buy meals for others ahead of time.

"Customers can come in and purchase a brown bag," says Sara Schimkus, one of the owners. "They can buy a coffee and a buttered bagel, or whatever they want, for somebody, whether it be someone in the military, a police officer, whoever they want."

The bags are then hung on the wall, and when someone comes in matching the donor's criteria, they can get what's written on the bag for free. One bag offered a half dozen bagels to a single father, others to someone in need.

Keith Anderson, who says he is disabled and lives in a community home in Central Islip, benefited from some of the generosity Thursday. He says he comes every day.

"I wish I could pay it forward too," he says, "but I can't.

Mike Lavecchia, of Smithtown, says he got his free meal by accident.

"I saw one for a veteran," he explains. "Being a veteran, I said well I guess I will buy this for a veteran, not realizing that I was the veteran that was receiving this benefit."

So he paid it forward by buying meals for two other veterans, and he says he hopes other people get involved as well.

Schimkus says the program has been going on for about six months.

"My mom actually came up with the idea," she says. "And we wanted to do something good for the community. But what's been really humbling is seeing all of the customers who are willing to help pay it forward."

She says about two to three people pay it forward a day.

Lisa Verdi, of Ronkonkoma, did so for the first time Thursday.

"I hope that the whole store is covered with bags soon," she says.

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