A representative from Sussex-based Mrs. Dunster’s made a very special doughnut delivery to a family in Maine that have been struggling with health issues and a lack of access to their favourite sugary treat.
James Vienneau, a sales manager for Mrs. Dunster’s, is responsible for promoting the bakery in the three Maritime provinces and Maine.
Vienneau said he heard about the story of Jon and Paula Birt and thought there was something the New Brunswick bakery could do to help out their loyal American customers.
“For a small bakery, we go, maybe you could say, that extra mile. But we are in the customer service business. And we want to make things right,” he said.
The Birts live in East Millnocket, which is roughly 100 kilometres north of Bangor, have been married for 43 years and have raised children, grandchildren and some 30 foster children together.
Paula Birt’s health took a turn for the worse in recent years after she suffered an aneurysm.
She struggles with insomnia and she often wakes up in the middle of the night.
'Yes, we're in Maine and yes, there is New Brunswick, [we are] separated by an invisible line. But we are all neighbours.' - Jon Birt
But her husband figured out that a Dunster’s doughnut can put her back to sleep.
"Being in college, usually when I get her to sleep, if she wakes up at 2 a.m., I give her a doughnut, it gives me time to do my homework before she gets out of bed in the morning, to keep my grades up in college," he said.
Jon Birt, 62, lost his job when the Great Northern Paper Mill went bankrupt in 2003. The whole town of East Millnocket deflated after the mill closed.
Birt said there are poverty and drugs across his town and that is why he felt compelled to go back to school and study to counsel youth away from crime and substance abuse.
Lack of fresh doughnuts
Those early morning doughnuts that he would give his wife became very important for Birt, especially as he completed his studies. However, access to her favourite baked goods began to get more difficult in their community.
Soon word got back to Mrs. Dunster’s Vienneau that the Birts could no longer get fresh doughnuts at the store.
That is when Vienneau decided to make a special visit to Maine.
“When I looked up, and he was coming up the walk with 10 bags of doughnuts,” he said.
“I was very surprised.”
The Birts have gone from facing a doughnut deficit to having a surplus of sugary treats.
At first, Birt said he struggled with accepting the gift from the New Brunswick bakery.
“I have a problem with pride because we've always been givers and not receivers,” he said.
“Yes, we're in Maine and yes, there is New Brunswick, [we are] separated by an invisible line. But we are all neighbours.”
Birt said he was touched by the generosity of the Sussex company.
“That someone would care for us, so many miles away. It amazed me. After he left, I shed many tears,” he said.
Sitting on his couch with his wife, Jon asked Paula what she liked best about the Mrs. Dunster’s doughnuts:
“They came from the heart,” she said.