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In Shadow Of Opioid Crisis, Recovering Addict Pays It Forward To Hungry EMTs

TOM'S RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - A restaurant was the scene of a sublime act of gratitude: A generous gesture with no words spoken, no names exchanged, just a Good Samaritan covering the food tab for a group of volunteer EMTs as a thank you.

The bill simply said: "Paid, thank you, for all you do, have a great day, recovering addict."

It's a message Capt. Alyssa Golembeski of the Toms River First Aid Squad will never forget, written on the back of a receipt that she now hangs in her office, reports CBS2's Dick Brennan.

"I am honestly just so humbled and so astounded because it is something I never would have expected," she said.

The squad's captain and five other emergency medical technicians went out for a bite to eat last Friday after a long overnight shift. It was 7 a.m. at the IHOP on Route 37 East when the manager walked over.

"He said, 'I just wanted to let you guys know,' and he hands us the receipt. That somebody paid your bill," said Golembeski.

That somebody - an anonymous woman who covered their nearly $78 tab - left before the volunteer EMTs could see her face. All they know is she is a recovering addict.

"She is probably local, so there is a really good chance that either one of my crews, or the other five volunteer crews, were the ones that helped her get the help she needed to start the process of recovery," said Golembeski.

Her crew members say they respond to overdoses often.

"The opiod crisis is terrible across the country but particularly in New Jersey," she said. "To see there is an addict who is actively in recovery is just amazing to me."

"People need to realize that it a disease and these people do deserve to be cared for," said First Lt. Keith Rodriguez. "It's nice to see that you care for someone and they want to give back to you."

This charity has never happened to these volunteers, but the owner of the IHOP says it actually occurs frequently at the restaurant - usually though with veterans.

"It's just treating people like human beings and helping each other," said restaurant owner George Ebinger.

The crew hopes to one day thank this woman in person, but they realize they may never have the opportunity.

"Part of the process is not coming forward and not doing this for your own gratification but make amends with the people you may have hurt," said Golembeski. "So if she would like to come forward, I would love it but I understand if she doesn't want to."

The restaurant owner says his manager knows who the woman is, because he cashed her out, but he refuses to say since she wants to remain anonymous.


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