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Hermantown blogger surprises one Duluth restaurant with $4k through ‘Venmo Challenge’

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DULUTH, MN. -- A viral act of kindness supporting restaurant workers has made its way to Duluth.

People with large social media platforms are asking their followers to make a donation of any size, and in turn, make the day of a lucky server.

"Honestly I didn't think it was real until he showed me the money that was in his hand and I was like is that real," said Luke Schmitz, Owner of Va Bene.

On Friday night, Minnesota bars and restaurants served their final in-person diners for the next four weeks as new restrictions were put into place, putting an extra strain on restaurant industry workers.

"There's lots of places that need help right now," said Schmitz.

Alyssa Greene, a social media blogger from Hermantown with close to 200 thousand Instagram followers, wanted to help in whatever way she could.

"It's something so simple for me to go on my Instagram and try and gather a bunch of people who just want to do better," said Greene.

Inspired by the recent social media trends to surprise restaurant servers with large tips, she reached out to her followers to partake in a 'Venmo Challenge'.

"Within the first hour I had a thousand dollars," said Greene.

In less than a day Greene collected $4,000 from people all over the world, just looking to make someone's day.

"There were $20 dollars and people would say I'm a server or I'm a nurse now but I was a server and you have no idea what this would mean. Just people seeing that it's going to be a hard time for someone and I think people just wanting to do something good," said Greene.

So Greene and her husband visited Va Bene in Duluth, with $4,000 in their pockets.

"This restaurant is a favorite of Duluth and I think it's the heart. Being from here we wanted to support locals and give back that way," said Greene.

Schmitz, one of Va Bene's owners, said that this generosity will go a long way with his staff.

"This is amazing because now I don't have to worry about buying Christmas presents which is something which is something they were unsure about what they were going to do with that," said Schmitz.

A sense of relief, touching all of Va bene's staff.

"The coolest thing was every single person that had the money said we are going to evenly distribute this so regardless of how much I gave the server they split it all equally which speaks to the character of the people who work here," said Greene.

In hopes to inspire others to partake in other acts of kindness this unusual holiday season, in whatever way they can.

Greene said that she would be open to doing a second 'Venmo Challange' in the area, but encourages people to support small businesses during the next four weeks by ordering take out, or shopping local.

If you would like to follow along on Alyssa Greene's Instagram journey, you can follow her at @alyssajoygreene

Ryan Compeau

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