On Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, restaurant owner P.J. Gialopsos got a phone call from an irate customer.

As anyone who's worked in the service industry will tell you, an occasional dissatisfied customer is simply part of the job. But this particular customer of Little Italy Restaurante in Anchorage, Alaska, took it to a whole other level.


Photo via iStock.

Someone who'd ordered delivery service was upset over a mistake by one of Gialopsos' employees, who has autism.

A Little Italy employee made a small mistake with the customer's order (it happens with us humans from time to time). Instead of handling the situation with any ounce of level-headedness, however, the customer yelled at the delivery driver, who has autism, calling him inappropriate names, the Alaska Dispatch News reported. The customer then called the restaurant to complain about the driver, continued to use profanity, and even accused the employee of being on drugs.

“So (the driver) is a little awkward socially -- gee whiz -- that doesn't give you a right to call him a foul name and make his day miserable."
— P.J. Gialopsos

When customers have had issues with the employee before, Gialopsos said, usually things got smoothed out once the restaurant explained the employee has autism. This time, however, that didn't happen.

Frustrated, Gialopsos took to social media to explain that sort of attitude will not be tolerated at Little Italy's.

In a Facebook post published on Nov. 10, 2015, Gialopsos spelled out exactly what had happened and what she did about it.

"We have fired this customer," she wrote, noting that her employee is a "seriously accomplished university student," and has "one helluva work ethic."

"That address, that name, and phone number will be tagged with a DO NOT DELIVER DO NOT ACCEPT ORDER message."

Here's the entire post (story continues below):

"This has been pondered for days now: should I write this post and HOW should I write this post?

Over the weekend we received a complaint about one of our delievery drivers. The customer wasn't simply complaining, he was ranting and foul. He informed us our driver was an idiot and strung out on drugs and was FURIOUS!

It was calmly explained to him, no, this driver is not on drugs....nor does he drink....he is autistic and has a slight speech impediment. The customer called the phone person a liar, had a few more choice words for her and hung up.

When the driver returned, he came into my office a little shaken because the customer was angry (he had mixed up the pouch of food but quickly retrieved the correct order from his car. Mistakes are made all the time in the course of a business life, and when we make them we do our very best to correct the problem immediately. )...that didn't satisfy this man....he berated him and then called him a name I won't even elude to here.

It isn't the first time I've had a comment about this employee, but normally, as soon as I explain, they are always VERY understanding that the mannerisms had a reason.

This driver has worked for us for two years. He is a seriously accomplished University student, has an amazingly inquisitive personality, a wicked sense of humor and one helluva work ethic!

You would think, in the year 2015 the majority of the population would have learned or at least heard about autism. I understand that there is a large portion of our population that is content to remain uninformed and uneducated, but that doesn't give them to right to take that ignorance and turn it into a foul mouthed rant on two of my employees!

Therefore, we have fired this customer. That address, that name and phone number will be tagged with a DO NOT DELIVER DO NOT ACCEPT ORDER message.

...... And won't that customer be surprised later in life to learn that his "idiot strung out" delivery driver long ago turned out to be the physicist, microbiologist or chemical engineer who could quite possibly make a discovery that will save his sorry *** someday.

Just sayin'.
Thank you for allowing my own little rant here."

















Since it was published, the post has garnered more than 19,000 Likes and over 5,000 shares — quite the response for a small restaurant in Alaska.

“The fact that he has autism doesn't cross anyone's mind at the restaurant," Gialopsos told The Mighty. “We just work, he just works, that's it. Maybe it's the mom in me, but I had to write that response."

The response to Little Italy's post has been "overwhelming" for Gialopsos in the best possible way.

What does her employee think of all this positive attention? He's been thrilled, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.

"I can honestly say kindness is not in short supply," Gialopsos wrote in a follow-up post on Facebook Nov. 13.

"Understanding still thrives....and good people do good things every single day...all over the world."

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

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In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

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