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Inspiring Stories
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After being evicted, Dunkin’ employee given new home thanks to grateful customer

Cerith Gardiner - published on 12/15/21

A friendly smile when you're at your worst can go a long way!

One of the hardest things to do is to put on a brave face at work when we’re in the middle of a crisis. Yet, for 21 months, Ebony Johnson has been going to work with a smile on her face, despite the worry of being evicted from her home.

However, the mom of three shared with TODAY Food that a regular customer of hers, Suzanne Burke, had noticed that she’d missed a few weeks worth of work back in March. She spoke to the Dunkin’ employee and asked her what had happened.

Johnson explained that she’d been through financial hardship, and she and her children had been left homeless.

“I wanted to give up. I cried. I come to work every day and nobody knows what I’m going through because I always try to have a smile for our customers,” explained the hardworking mom.

An “angel” hears her story

After hearing Johnson’s story, Burke, who’d worked with social services during her career, left behind a note offering a helping hand. Thankfully, Johnson took Burke up on her offer.

Burke reached out to a number of organizations and was able to share with Johnson the news that she’d be moving into a two-bedroom apartment before Christmas.

“Oh my God, it was so amazing, I just busted out crying. I never had a full furnished house. I never had help like this. I had been asking God to put us in a home before Christmas, and He really did. I’m just so thankful,” shared the delighted Dunkin’ employee.

For Burke the news was equally as emotional: “It was so exciting, we all cried. I’ve got three kids, and I can’t imagine not having a home to go to and then to have to get up, get the kids to school, and show up at work with a positive, happy attitude? I’ve been in awe of her.”

Johnson shared with TODAY that since the eviction she and her children had been staying at the homes of various family members, in cramped conditions. But the love for her children kept her going.

“It’s been so much we’ve been through,” she said, adding, “I just keep going. I think about my kids every day. I can’t give up because then what is going to happen to them?”

Going the extra mile

While the new apartment was wonderful news, Burke really pulled out all the stops. She contacted her friend, Jo Potvin, who owns a real estate staging company, Design to Market, who donated a substantial amount of furniture, and New Life Furniture bank provided other household items.

Before Johnson and her kids moved in, Potvin went the extra mile and furnished the apartment ready for its new arrivals, and got a handyman in to fix up any repairs.

The level of excitement that I and my whole team had to prepare for that day and that moment, I honestly don’t think it could be any more impactful,” Potvin shared with TODAY. “To not only see Ebony’s enduring effort through so much adversity, but also what a great mother to raise such incredible children is just amazing.”

According to TODAY, it was thanks to the Cincinnati-based organization Strategies to End Homelessness that Johnson was able to secure the apartment, something many people in precarious financial positions have difficulty doing.

While the generosity of Burke and her friends proved life-changing to Johnson, her story only highlights the problem of affordable housing. But on a positive note, it also provides some powerful life lessons: the importance of looking out for others, that sometimes you need to share your woes, a positive attitude at work can prove very rewarding, and a mother’s love can provide untold strength.

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