Garin Bledsoe, owner of the Steamin' Bean in Blue Springs, said the chain began with a drive-through customer who wanted to pay for the next customer's drink as well as her own, and since then more than 1,000 customers have followed her example by accepting drinks paid for by the person in front of them and paying it forward, WDAF-TV, Kansas City, Mo., reported Wednesday.
"It's hard times, but people are wanting to be part of something, knowing their 5 cents, their dollar goes to a greater good," Bledsoe said. "They may not be able to change the economy, but they can change one person a day by doing a simple little gesture."
He said a fund started by customers wishing to continue the pay-it-forward scheme in case someone breaks the chain has reached more than $160.
Bledsoe said the woman who started the chain recently returned to the coffee shop and witnessed the pattern she had originated.
"She started crying," Bledsoe said. "I explained to her we had generated so much money, people are giving so much here, I'm going to give money to these people. She just started crying. She thought it was great."
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]