Niles Bowling Alley looks to 'Pay it forward' to help through pandemic struggles

NOW: Niles Bowling Alley looks to ’Pay it forward’ to help through pandemic struggles

NILES, Mich. - Joey Armadillo's in Niles is shutting down for the second time this year due to COVID-19 restrictions brought on by the State of Michigan. The bowling alley is also a restaurant. So, the owner, Mark Godsey, said it will survive on curbside and delivery services for at least the next three weeks, but after a charitable gesture from a customer, Godsey also said he wants to help not only his business but the community survive these latest restrictions.

"When these three weeks are added up, this will be seven months that we've been closed this year," Godsey said. "So, it's pretty difficult. We're doing everything we can. I feel sorry for the other restaurants and stuff too because seven months is a long time."

Godsey's employees are also feeling the struggle of being shut down for so long.

"It's been difficult not only or the employees, but for the families just trying to make ends meet," said six-year employee Kimberly Gross. "I was trying to buy a house recently, but we're not able to move forward with that due to the closures."

Godsey said he had been feeling a lot of anger at the circumstances until one customer came into his office and with a simple gesture changed his perspective.

"I had a young lady come in my office and give me some money for a party next June and told me it was to help us get through now," Godsey said. "She said she wanted to do that for us because her dad who is 87 years old always taught her to pay it forward. So, I thought 'the heck with all the politicians and all the things we have to worry about in everyday life. Let's start paying it forward in our own community and help everybody get through this."

He then took to Facebook to create a page called Pay It Forward Michiana as a place where people can post about people or businesses who need help getting through the tough times of closures. Godsey said he would work with people who reach out via that page to try to help them out of the struggle they find themselves in, all in an effort to get people out to "do some good."

Godsey also has a plan to help his employees through this time.

"We're also starting a little turkey giveaway with my employees," Godsey said. "We're going to sell some, and the money is going to go towards our employees."

Godsey said he has already had as many as 20 people offer to buy turkeys to help his staff. Godsey's efforts have not gone unnoticed.

"He's a family man," Gross said. "He treats us like we are family here. He puts everybody ahead of himself. He's always thinking about what he can do for us."

Godsey said he has been amazed by the responses his new Facebook page has already gotten in the two days it has been active. He said he wants everyone to help their local businesses, friends and neighbors and spread kindness during the pandemic.

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