Shepparton's Stellar Coffee owner Matt Kington has been left in “disbelief” as a robbery added to the beating the business took last week.
Under new government restrictions, the much-loved coffee shop has began operating as a takeaway business, which led to a dramatic cut in revenue and staff hours.
However, in order to do what he could for his staff, Mr Kington decided to place a box on the counter for the community to donate funds to help staff with their living expenses.
But on Thursday the donation box was stolen in broad daylight.
Mr Kington estimated the box had a couple of hundred dollars in it.
“We didn’t want the box to sound like a charity,” Mr Kington said.
“But all my staff are casual and I wanted to do something for them.
“Dozens of our customers spared what they could and made a donation.
“We were planning to divide it among our staff to help them in these hard times,” he said.
After realising the box had been taken, Mr Kington, his staff and regular customers were left in disbelief.
“It’s quite a brazen attack in these uncertain times,” Mr Kington said.
“We called the police and we have our suspicions,” he said.
Although disappointed, the staff continued to pour coffee and get on with their mission of helping other locals.
Early last week, the cafe began a pay-it-forward campaign which allowed customers to buy a coffee for someone in need or for an essential worker such as a healthcare or supermarket employee.
Mr Kington said as they continued with their work, karma came around.
“Dozens of people were calling and generously donating to our pay-it-forward mission,” Mr Kington said.
“Then word began to get out about what had happened to our donation box and within six hours the community had replaced what we lost,” he said.
Two major donations for both donation drives came from DSK Waste Services and Pets Domain.
Mr Kington said he was proud to live and work in such a generous community at a time when everyone was doing it tough.
“We will continue to take things day by day,” he said.
“We will continue to try to put a smile on someone’s face with a free coffee and try to help our staff out as much as possible,” he said.
To find out more about Stellar’s pay-it-forward campaign visit their Facebook Page.