Dear Marge,

I was unsurprised to read in Friday's Grand Rapids Press that your shop, Marge's Donut Den, made the list of finalists for the Celebrated Service Award.  
Marge's Donut Den enjoys a faithful clientele.
Courtesy: Marge's Donut Den

My natural inclination toward frugality only allows a donut when the neon Krispy Kreme sign beckons with the offer of a free one. I haven't partaken in ages, though, because five bites of pleasure fail to outweigh the embarrassment of taking the freebie without further purchase, violating some unnamed principle of thrift. Despite rarely eating anything I haven't bought in bulk and cooked in my own kitchen, I visited your shop a couple of years back, discovering that your donuts shame Krispy Kreme's, in both size and taste.

In 2009, a friend received a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Pam sold online, specializing in American Girl dolls. American Girl on clearance means an item's imminent retirement. So, each year she'd purchase discontinued goods at a steep discount, storing them to resell at Christmastime when demand peaked. Pam stayed home with her girls. Selling on eBay made a great home business, and supported her daughters' American Girl doll habit.

I wrote about Pam in a recent blog post.
Whenever I'd see Pam at church, we'd catch up, often recounting recent bargains (Pam loved, and celebrating notable sales in our online shops. So, when I learned of her diagnosis, making a meal or sending a card didn't spring to mind (I'm horrible about sending cards), but She needs me to sell her things did.

I picked up a carload of dolls and doll outfits, along with other odds and ends she'd been intending to list, and helped organize her storage room. If I were ill, I doubt I'd want a pity party, and I sensed Pam didn't either, so we went through household detritus, thankful for the attention the task required. I enjoy decluttering, sometimes overreaching my bounds in impassioned attempts to persuade a friend to part with a worthless bauble. Pam required no coaxing, though, unwilling to burden her husband with the flotsam that had drifted to the corner of the basement.

Custom baby clothes quilt,
available on Etsy from another
Pam opened a giant Rubbermaid tote and fingered a baby outfit, remarking wistfully, "I planned to make a quilt from Ava's things, but now I'll never get to." We both cried. Our church had a quilting group, and a few phone calls found a sweet woman--aptly named Sugar--eager to tackle the project that Pam could not. People from church brought meals, took the girls to music lessons, prayed, and supported the family in myriad ways. A line from a sermon that touched me deeply shortly after learning of my own son's autism diagnosis comforted Pam, too: "This is not all there is." Yet, even if there were no hope of the resurrection, the loving embrace of a church family in a time of need is no small matter.

My and Pam's church, LaGrave CRC
in downtown, Grand Rapids. Courtesy:
But Marge, what you did was no small matter, either.

I administered Pam's eBay account, but, overwhelmed by the number of American Girl Bitty Baby outfits and despairing they might not all sell online before Christmas, I cast my net wider, placing a free ad in the Grand Rapids Press. But the first caller wanted a doll, not just an outfit. And I received just one other inquiry, and that was from you, Marge, also wanting a complete doll for your granddaughter. When I explained my motive for selling, you asked, "How many outfits do you have?" Then, undeterred by the quantity, offered, "Take them down to Marge's Donut Den. I'll buy them all." You hadn't even wanted one outfit, let alone a whole pile of them.

So my friend Tammy and I headed to your shop with the outfits, stopping at every thrift store on the way (I like to combine trips, and always need more inventory for my vintage kitchenwares shop). You were gone, so your sister called you to authorize the purchase. Along with the payment, you had her include two gift certificates. While we waited, we enjoyed free donuts your sister proffered. We didn't feel embarrassed to get these freebies, however. While Krispy Kreme offers gimmicky bait with the expectation you'll take a dozen home, or at least buy a coffee, you treated us as if we had done you a favor, not the other way around.

Courtesy: Women's Lifestyle
Torn between wanting Pam to know you cared and not wanting her to feel like a charity case, I opted not to tell her why you bought all the outfits. She appreciated the gift certificates, and insisted I keep one. A few months later, Tammy and I made another thrift store run, picking up a dozen donuts with the gift certificate en route. I don't want to admit how many we ate (I really love apple fritters), but, while we savored them in the parking lot of the Goodwill Outlet, a life-worn man loaded his purchases into the bed of a rusty pickup. I rolled down my window. "Would you like a donut?"

Perhaps donuts engender trust. After all, you believed my story about the outfits, enough to spend quite a bit to bless someone you didn't even know, and the man in the parking lot threw caution to the wind, eating a donut from a pair of strangers.

I really hope, Marge, that Marge's Donut Den wins the contest. I've read on the Celebrated Service Award website testimonials from others whom you have helped, and I'm sure my story won't surprise your regulars. You inspire me to give my best to my own customers, and even to those who may never spend a dime.

I'm more of a procrastinator than a card writer, which I realize is a poor excuse. But here's my shamefully belated thank-you. Pam thought perhaps you were crazy, buying all those outfits. When you're so giving that people wonder, it speaks volumes.

I don't know if big donuts make big hearts, or if big hearts make big donuts, but there must be a correlation. There must.



P.S. I'm asking everyone to vote for Marge's Donut Den for the Celebrated Service Award. I can't imagine anyone deserving it more than you.


  1. What a wonderful post. What a great person Marge must be.

    Lynette - Sweet Posy Dreams

  2. Hi Laura,
    I never knew this whole story either.... I do remember how thankful I was to you for taking care of this all for us. If it were left to me the eloquent posts that Pam used to post would have been reduced to: "Doll outfit - Blue".... :^) My guess is that my Average Sales Price would have been much reduced.
    I also do remember the day....mainly because you brought donuts and there were no apple fritters left! :^)I was easily satisfied with a chocolate covered custard long john though).
    Lots of memories in your post. One of Sugar's quilts made out of the girls clothes is still draped on the rocking chair right next to me as I type this.
    It's Pam's birthday Thursday....maybe I'll stop in at Marge's on the way to work for a fritter'.
    Thanks Again.

  3. Our daughter worked for Marge last year, her senior year of high school. I remember hearing this story, I believe it is as special to Marge's as it is to you. Thank you for sharing this and putting a face on the story. Marge is very kind, and can often recognize a need before there is one. She is truly one of God's special helpers. Love your friend, Pam

  4. Laura - you are a gifted writer, and have an incredible heart. You find a way of making everything valuable.

    Marge - you are a gem. You've already won, in my book, and many others'...

  5. I am Pam's sister, Irene.I found your blog after Dave shared the post about Marge on Facebook. What a touching story about how you, Marge, Sugar, and many others blessed Pam and her family. Pam told me all about you, and I am moved to tears to read how you have remembered Pam in your blog. (I also read your post about the Liplickers! I sure wished I had saved mine.)

    I live too far away to visit Marge's donut shop, but I wish I could thank her and buy some fritters! I voted for her, however, and hope you let us know if she wins.

    Thanks for these memories!


  6. I live in another Country but if Marge had a donut shop here I sure would go. I read your post with tears streaming down my face - very touching piece of writing.

  7. I appreciate all your kind comments. Pam was a gem, and so is Marge! Please share and tweet. Marge is up against a hospital (among other establishments), and with the huge employee base a hospital has, I expect there's steep competition. I'm sure they're all deserving, but I hold a special place for Marge.

  8. Another beautiful blog post, Laura. You are truly gifted in SO many ways. I'll never forget our trip to Marge's that day; and then to see Pam.

    It's touching to hear the way seemingly small things can greatly impact a person's life.

    This makes me want to make a stop at Marge's sometime soon... to get a donut for my son, of course:)


  9. Thank you so much for using the image of my baby clothes quilt in your blog. It is a very touching story and I would have loved to actually make a quilt for Pam from those baby clothes. I voted for Marge's Donut Shop!

  10. Someday, I will visit Marge's Donut Den and eat a sweet donut from a sweet woman. Great post!

  11. I voted for her - those donuts look amazing.

  12. Thanks for writing and prayers for Pam.
    an etsian

  13. Thanks, everyone, for your kind words, and for voting! Pam passed away about a year and a half ago. I wrote more about her here:

  14. I really enjoyed reading your blog. That was a sweet story! ;0)

  15. Pam's sister, Irene, here again...

    I have a little update to your story. My father read your post Monday evening. On Tuesday he called and told me that he had gone to Marge's Donut Den earlier that morning because he wanted to meet Marge (and try a donut, no doubt). She wasn't there, but he met her sister and explained that he was Pam's father. She gave him a big hug and took his cell phone number. Marge called him a bit later. I'm not sure what they talked about, but I am sure that Marge's Donut Den has a new fan. My father talked about taking my mom with him the next time.

    I shared your post with a friend and co-worker here in Washington state. She and her family are flying to Grand Rapids next month to visit her daughter in college. They are already making plans to visit Marge's Donut Den! I hope Marge makes great coffee!

    Thanks for blessing our family with this great story. It has helped us this week as we remember Pam on her birthday today.

    Irene VanKooten

    Thanks for

  16. I've awarded you the Versatile Blogger award! Here's the link, Love your blog.


  17. Hello!
    I found out about you through "Sweet Posy Dreams" and the "Versatile Blogger Award" - I just joined your blog :-)


I'd love to have your comments and reflections!