Michigan man serves up a cup of kindness to hospital patients

(CBS News) DETROIT -- It all began with a coffee craving. It all began with a tall, cream-and-sugar-haired guy named Dan Dewey and this urge he got back in 2006 for a grande, black, bold roast.

Dan Dewey
Dan Dewey CBS News

The Starbucks was just down the road from St. Joseph Mercy hospital outside Detroit, where his dad was getting a chemo treatment. Dan was sitting with his dad and some other patients, when Dan announced, "Anyone want a coffee? I'm buying."

Seven years have passed. His dad beat cancer and stopped coming here long ago. So why, then, is Dan still taking orders?

"It's the best job I ever had, and I have to pay to do it, that's what I tell people," he says. "Somebody says, 'Can you afford that?' I say, 'No, but I never had any money, anyway, so why not share it?'"

Dan takes an order from a patient.
Dan takes an order from a patient. CBS News

To date, Dan, a retired audio-visual specialist for the local school district, has spent about $10,000 of his own money on frou-frou coffee drinks for cancer patients.

He buys the drinks -- almost too many at a time -- and then delivers them to Mercy, and now a second hospital across town.

Dan buys a towering stack of coffees.
Dan buys a towering stack of coffees. CBS News

It's obviously a very sweet thing to do, but oncologist Dr. Rajan Krishnan says Dan's drinks do a lot more than just taste good.

"It's not so much the coffee," he says. "Coffee is the vehicle for the relationship."

I saw what he meant.

Anna Burell
Anna Burell CBS News

"He makes me feel like somebody cares," says 78-year-old Anna Burell, one of his regulars.

I heard that same sentiment from virtually every one of his customers. They all want to pay him --completely unaware that they already have.

"That's all I need is just the smile," Dan says. "That's all I need. And I have a memory bank full of wonderful smiles."

And Dan doesn't even see the half of them. I noticed that long after he's moved on to the next delivery, people are still celebrating his presence.

Whoever said coffee isn't good for you?

To donate to Dan's Coffee Run, click here.

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, e-mail us.

  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.