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Coffee Angel brings hope for the holidays

Dan Dewey makes a delivery at St. Joeseph’s in Pontiac. Photo submitted (click for larger version)
December 05, 2012 - Angels appear to many people but rarely do they come bearing coffee.

At St. Joseph Hospital, an Orion man has become known at the Coffee Angel for his acts of kindness to those who need a little comfort.

And in time for the holiday season, Dan Dewey was recognized by Oakland County last Wednesday for his charitable acts.

During a Board of Commissioners meeting, County Commission and Orion resident Mike Gingell honored Dewey with a proclamation from the Board of Commissioners in recognition of his charitable work at St. Joseph Hospital, where he is known as the Coffee Angel.

"I think what Dewey is doing is an extraordinary feat and it's something that obviously brings joy to other people," said Gingell. "I know Dewey from living in Orion, but I didn't know he was involved in doing this. It's important that we recognize people who do good deeds for the benefit of others and this is the kind of activity that makes a community a community."

Dewey, of Gingellville, began visiting his father at St. Joseph Hospital in Pontiac ten years ago after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Thinking to ease the situation, Dewey went to get coffee and thought to ask one of the nurses if she wanted a cup as well.

As his visits continued, he noticed people sitting alone and thought to ask if they too would like a drink. Soon he was coming back with around eight drinks for everyone. His father was cured soon after.

Unfortunately, the cure did not last and the cancer returned. When his father's treatments again solved the problem, Dewey still wanted to keep bringing people coffee.

"I told (my father) and he just calmly said 'ok, do it,'" said Dewey who has delivered coffee to St Joseph since 2007. "I walk in with my little notepad and ask them - employees, nurses, doctors, patients, friends and family - 'what would you like to drink from Starbucks?' Most know that question and some understand why I'm going and getting them a free drink. It puts a smile on people's faces and that's the whole point: to distract these people who are waking up everyday facing something that the rest of us cannot understand."

Dewey said it's always been his personality to make people feel better. In school, he recalled, he was the class clown who had difficulty not getting in trouble, but at the hospital he can use his talent to an advantage.

He occasionally tries to be late on Thursday so everyone "get's to say 'you're late,'" and always wears his trademark shorts - even in winter. It's all part of an act to help people separate from the reality of where they are. For Dewey it "never stops being fun."

"The first time people are always the same," said Dewey. "They sit there, solemn for obvious reasons, and I come up and say 'free coffee day, what would you like?'" he said.

"They always, always say 'I'm fine' and then we start with the banter until a nurse comes over and says 'please order something because he won't go away unless you do.'"

Buying premium coffee every Thursday for years is not an inexpensive endeavor and Dewey has nearly run out of money before. But thanks to a Starbucks employee telling media agencies of Dewey's actions, news coverage of his charity sparked a charity to fund the coffee runs.

At danscoffeerun.com, people can make donations to Dewey or to Starbucks who will put it on a gift card and use it whenever Dewey comes into the cafe.

It's helped Dewey continue doing what he loves to do.

"It was just about out of money last July, but total strangers saw an article and donated to this anonymous website," said Dewey. "It's still mind-boggling to me how little things like this work out. I'll just do this as long as I can because it's all part of the adventure part of it."

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