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Family-owned restaurant in Lancaster County pays it forward after receiving a generous act of kindness

The Kourgelis family turned $2,000 of donations into $20 gift cards and handed them out to unsuspecting customers.

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — At Gus’s Keystone Family Restaurant in Mount Joy, you see a lot of familiar faces. The restaurant has been a community staple for 20 years and has garnered quite the following.

A few months ago, one of their loyal customers, who wished to remain anonymous, dropped off a small, white envelope for the restaurant’s owner, Gus Kourgelis.

“And of course, when we opened it up, everyone was in shock. It was one thousand bucks cash,” said Yianis Kourgelis, Gus’s son who runs the Mount Joy restaurant location.

Instead of keeping the money for restaurant expenses, the Kourgelis family decided to pay it forward. They turned the money into $20 gift cards and handed them out to unsuspecting customers.

“My father Gus has always instilled in me try to give back whenever we can and what we can,” added Kourgelis. “The community’s always been very supportive to us.”

Then, the restaurant received a second donation of $1,000 to their Ephrata location. It was gifted by the Lancaster Evangelical Free Church in Lititz, which made donations to several businesses in the area.

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Yet again, the Kourgelis family turned the money into pre-paid gift cards.

“Let’s pay it forward and try to bring positivity into the community because everything is just so hard right now. We just felt this was the best way to proceed,” explained Kourgelis.

This is not the first time Gus’s Keystone Family Restaurant has helped the community. On Easter, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to unravel in South Central Pennsylvania, the restaurant handed out free Easter meals. Hundreds of cars had lined Main Street nearly two hours early.

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Collectively, the Ephrata and Mount Joy locations served about 2,000 meals, Kourgelis said. Struggling families later sent in thank you notes and letters of encouragement that has inspired the restaurant to consider holding another free drive-thru event next Easter.

When asked what drives their benevolence, Kourgelis said it just fits the bill.

"You know, it always goes a long way,” Kourgelis said. “And if you can help someone who needs it, why not?”