Punta Gorda diner collects customer donations to serve veterans free meals

A local diner is saying thank you to veterans with a free meal, and it’s all funded by the generosity of its customers.

A simple post from Penny Rowe — one of the co-owners of Penny’s Diner in Punta Gorda — inspired a veteran to donate $50, which was used to pay for a meal for two veterans and their kids.

It was a small act of appreciation for those who served.

“Home of the free because of the brave,” words proudly displayed inside Penny’s Diner.

Veterans who grab a table there and open a menu are thanked for their service with a free meal.

For Rowe, that moment is filled with emotions.

“When I explained it to him, he started crying,” Rowe said. “And as you can see, I’m a little emotional, so it brought me to tears. But there was other people in the restaurant that were brought to tears too.”

Moments like that are common at Penny’s Diner.

Two months ago, the diner started accepting donations, all to cover the check for veterans.

“We have been able to raise over $600 in a couple months, and it’s $20 here $20 here, whatever people can afford to donate,” Rowe said. “And every time that happens, and I’m able to feed another veteran.”

Rowe and her co-owner, Gordon Muir, told me they understand the sacrifice veterans have made. They both had family members in the military, so an omelet or sandwich on the house is the least they can do.

“Whatever we can do to give back to the ones that are still here, I think is amazing,” Muir said. “Doesn’t matter how small. To them, it’s very large.”

“One veteran started at the bar crying, and said thank you, Penny. You don’t understand. We’re so forgotten,’” Rowe explained.

Rowe hopes this shows people, including her 11-year-old daughter, Ella, the impact of caring for others.

Rowe told us they received $40 in donations Thursday. She says, when they announce the meal is on the house inside, it inspires other customers to donate.

“Kindness is priceless, and even the smallest little act can mean way more than you ever would believe to somebody,” Rowe said.

Reporter:Zach Oliveri
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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