Nearly $10,000 worth of food was paid forward at Dairy Queen in northeast Brainerd last week.

A drive-thru customer sparked the multi-day chain Thursday afternoon, Dec. 3, after offering to pay for the food of the driver behind them. The next customer was asked if they wanted to put the cost of their meal toward the food for the next person, and thus began a chain that continued until Saturday evening, with more than 900 cars paying it forward.

“Not everybody paid full amounts, but they paid a little bit of something,” Dairy Queen Area Manager Tina Jensen said Sunday, Dec. 6. “Everybody paid something forward — either what their bill was or paid for the next car, depending on what they could do.”

By the end of the night Thursday, $10 was left over to keep the chain going the next day. And after hearing about what was happening, another person called in and donated $80 to the cause, meaning Dairy Queen started Friday with $90 to pay forward for drive-thru customers.

Jensen said she sees a customer pay it forward about one every couple months.

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“I’ve had it happen where it went for like 10-15 cars, but never like this. Never for over a day,” she said.

One customer even came through twice, wanting to add more money to the chain.

While some were baffled at what was happening, Jensen said customers were ultimately grateful and eager to participate.

“There’s a couple that were so surprised. One lady was almost in tears,” she said.

With so much focus on all the negativity in the world right now, Jensen said the pay it forward chain was a nice reminder of the good that’s still out there in the community.

“We are still positive, and we still are trying to take care of each other,” she said.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at