WARR ACRES, OK (WCSC) - When the owner of a new sandwich shop found evidence someone had been going through a dumpster behind her store for food, she had no idea her response would become a viral effort to help others.
Ashley Jiron, owner of the P.B. Jams Sandwich Shop in Warr Acres, Oklahoma, noticed a dumpster had been opened early last week. Upon closer inspection, she saw bags containing discarded food had been torn into and food appeared to have been removed.
"I have a large one-yard dumpster with a heavy lid," she said. "There's no way an animal could have opened it."
Saddened by the thought of someone so down on their luck as to need to eat from a dumpster, she decided to take action.
"You can't turn your face away from someone who needs help," she said. "If I were in that same situation, I would definitely hope someone would help me."
She posted a letter on the dumpster and later that day added a copy to her front door. The message read:
Customer reaction has been unanimous, Jiron said.
"The feedback has been all positive," she said. "My customers have been very accepting of this."
That positive reaction has extended well past the Oklahoma City area. Jiron says she has lost count of the interview requests she has received since the story began going viral over the past week.
On Thursday, she was interviewed by a news outlet in Canada. The BBC in London called. On Friday, she will do an interview for Australian media.
"It has been incredibly overwhelming," she said. "People have been absolutely amazing."
Jiron's shop, which has only been open since Jan. 19, serves a variety of gourmet peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, BLTs and other favorites like turkey clubs.
Her offer to feed one needy person has begun building. She created a program called "Share the Nuts," which mimics creative names she has for some of her sandwiches that substitute doughnuts for buns. Customers can donate money to prepay for someone else's meal. Jiron says they can pay whatever they can, even if it's only a dollar. A donation -- any donation -- puts a tag on her wall; someone in need who isn't able to pay can take a tag to cover the cost of their food.
"We've already collected enough for 600 meals," she said.
She has even created a GoFundMe account so that people can donate to the campaign to help pay for food for customers in her area. In three days, people have donated nearly $4,000 to the effort.
"It's what my parents taught us to do," she said. "They were always having people over, always sharing."
Jiron says she has always wanted to build something positive and hopes the effort will one day spread beyond her store and her area.
On her business's Facebook page, she thanked the public for their support.
"Everyone, thanks so much for all your kind words, for sharing your stories, and for touching my heart," the post reads. "You're all amazing. We're amazing. We're human."