Jessie Hamilton says she's worked at least two jobs, and sometimes four, ever since she was 14. She's now 74 and finally ready to retire, thanks to a generous act from some of the people she's served throughout her career. Fourteen of those years, from 1982 to 1996, were spent as a cook at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house at Louisiana State University, where Hamilton served up to 100 young men at a time. "They'd come in the kitchen and sit on top of the counter and tell me their problems," Hamilton tells the Washington Post. "She was truly like a mother to us," adds Andrew Fusaiotti, 52. He was one of several fraternity brothers to surprise Hamilton with an outdoor celebration for her birthday on April 3. But there was another surprise in store: The brothers had pooled $51,765—enough money to pay off the mortgage on Hamilton's Baton Rouge home.
"If I hadn't been sitting, I would have fell down," Hamilton, a single mother, tells the Post. "I was hollering and crying," she adds, noting there were times she struggled to put food on her own table. She was able to buy her own home in 2006, but with a 30-year mortgage, assumed she'd have to work multiple jobs for the rest of her life to afford it. Fusaiotti had other ideas. After touching base with Hamilton at the start of the pandemic, he reached out to brothers across the country, requesting donations for "the most giving person you've ever met," per the Advocate. Ninety-one people donated an average of $560, per the Post. At the celebration, the group stunned Hamilton with $6,675 to spend on herself, then another $45,000 to cover the mortgage. Now a cook and a cleaner, Hamilton has already told her bosses that she's quitting. "Andrew answered my prayers," she tells the Advocate, teasing a future trip to Hawaii. (Read more uplifting news stories.)