On TikTok, Maineiac Meredith Steele went viral to raise tip money for a gay waiter who was given religious pamphlets instead of tips.
Now she's raised over $10,000 for a local nonprofit that supports LGBTQ+ community members in the state of Maine.
"As a general life rule I try not to make videos when I'm angry, but if you can't tell by my chest right now I'm fuming."
Meredith Steele, known as @babiesofsteele on TikTok, has been working in restaurants for 15 years. So when she heard from a friend a gay co-worker was given religious pamphlets twice in one day instead of tips, Steele was furious.
Steele said while trying to remain calm:
"I don't care who your God is, if you do that you're an a**hole."
"And you can justify it however you want but that's not in your book."
love is love is love is love is love #pride
Steele put her Venmo handle on the screen and asked for tips to give to the waiter, John, who is a complete stranger to her. What Steele wasn't expecting when asking to her nearly 500,00 followers was the need to put a cap on the donations.
She updated the next day:
"First of all, I want to thank everyone who has contributed so far."
"You have exceeded my expectations by thousands."
"Thousands of dollars more than I ever expected humanly possible could be contributed by strangers on the internet."
Steele continued to keep his identity a secret out of respect for his privacy, but she did let everyone know she would give a portion to him and the rest to an organization to support the community.
She ended her update with thanking everyone for trusting her with their donations.
Reply to @kamata44
Steele also shared an updated after she gave the waiter his share, thanking everyone again for their contributions. Some people gave as little as 25 cents and she was blown away by how much those small increments can add up over time.
The donation has been made to EqualityMaine, a Portland based nonprofit that serves "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Maine through political action, community organizing, education, and collaboration."
Money from the donation will be going towards their New Leaders Project Camp, where LGBTQ+ kids and allies will gain skills in community building and self-empowerment from adult members of the community to encourage leadership.
EqualityMaine Development Director Christopher O'Connor told The Times Record:
"Kids in every corner of the state exist in their communities and schools as the only LGBT person they know."
"Camp gives them the chance to meet kids just like them and know they're valued, respected and loved."
"They get to feel comfortable in their own skin and explore maybe a new name or pronouns they've been thinking about but may be too scared to share it at home."
O'Connor also said they are emphasizing the LGBTQ+ community's history with leadership and movement building:
"Our youth are the next generation who will be leading the LGBTQ generation."
"Most schools don't touch on LGBT history at all unless you have a rare supportive history teacher, so we bring in our elders and they spend a day with the campers."
Reply to @dinadonatello UPDATE, WE DID IT!!! 🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈 #pridemonth
Meredith Steele received praise and support for doing this good deed for a complete stranger.
This isn't the first time she has surprised a stranger with money. In a report by ABC12, Steele can be seen sharing $1,000 with a waitress and telling stories of giving money away at random.
Steele did share the donate receipt as well, where you can see the total and that is was made in honor of John.
Both O'Connor and Steele agreed that this situation is frustrating and we still have a long way to go.
"Here this person is trying to make a living, and here comes these people who are saying 'You're less than I am,."
"Until every single one of us can live our lives without any form of microaggression or discrimination, there's still so much work to be done."
Meredith Steele commented:
"Regardless of your personal opinion, someone's sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with how they do their job."
"It's never your time or place to make a comment like that. It infuriated me."
Steele is honored to be an ally that can use her privilege to help the community. She also said that Pride month should be every month.
Let's take a page from her book and spread more love and kindness this June.