TIPTON – If you’ve ever put in an order at Pizza Hut in Tipton, there’s a good chance it was delivered by Robert Peters.
For the last 31 years, the 58-year-old Tipton resident has worked at the eatery, dropping off pizzas all around the city. And in all that time, every delivery came with a free smile and a friendly word from Peters.
“A smile may do more for that person than you think,” he said. “I heard a while ago that if someone sees you smile, that may be the only smile they see all day, or you might be the only person they talk to that day.”
It’s that attitude that has made Peters the most beloved pizza delivery guy in Tipton. His manager, Tammy Stinson, said it’s not uncommon for people to call in an order and then make sure to pass along a hello to Peters.
“He’s very nice to the customers,” Stinson said. “Pretty much all of them love him.”
And that was proven last week when local residents donated more than $16,000 in just four days to buy him a new car to replace his 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra, which has racked up more than 205,000 miles.
The fundraiser was spearheaded by Tanner Langley, a 28-year-old Tipton native, who remembers Peters delivering pizza to his parents’ house when he was just a little kid.
“He’s well known in the community for just being an incredible guy,” Langley said. “I’ve never seen him not smile. I’ve never not seen him just be a generous, awesome guy. He just radiates joy.”
That’s why it hit home when Peters told him about six months ago that his Oldsmobile was having issues and he was borrowing his mom’s car to make deliveries.
“This guy has been wholesome and awesome his whole life, but here he is having to borrow his mom’s car,” Langley said. “It just didn’t seem right that he’s been such a good person his whole life and he has to worry about his car working every day, when he relies so much on his vehicle.”
Langley said after talking with Peters, it was a no-brainer to take steps to get him a new car. So last Monday, he launched a Go Fund Me campaign with a goal of $12,000, called “Driving Miles with Mr. Smiles.”
To his utter surprise, the campaign met its goal in just three days. By Friday, residents had doled out more than $16,000 to their beloved delivery driver.
“Everybody in town loves him, and there’s a lot of proof for that because in four days we raised over $16,000,” Langley said.
With the donations in place, Langley headed over to Dan Young Chevrolet Buick GMC to pick up a vividly red 2017 Chevy Malibu, which the dealership sold at a reduced price. On Monday morning, Langley drove the car to the Pizza Hut parking lot, where Peters arrived in his 28-year-old Oldsmobile to get his new car.
Peters looked at the Malibu and shook his head.
“This is kind of beyond my comprehension,” Peters said. “It’s almost surreal. I can’t believe people would do this. I was just doing my job and trying to make someone’s day better by delivering a pizza, a smile and being friendly to them.”
“You deserve a better car,” Langley told Peters. “You don’t just need it. You deserve it. Everybody loves you.”
Having driven older cars most of his life, Peters spent some time learning the ins and outs of his new Malibu, like how to use the automatic start, before taking it for a spin around the block.
It made sense Peters would love his new car. After all, Langley asked him beforehand what he wanted as a new vehicle.
For a couple days, Langley tried to keep his surprise a secret from Peters. But after his Facebook post about the fundraiser received more than 2,000 shares, Langley figured there was no way Peters didn’t know about it.
So he reached out to see what kind of car he wanted. Peters only had two criteria: make it a GM or Chrysler product, and make it red.
“That was it,” Langley said. “I said, ‘Well, that’s pretty easy.’”
But even though Peters has received his new car, the donations haven’t stopped coming in. On Tuesday, the Go Fund Me campaign had garnered $18,200.
Langley said any extra money they have will go towards insurance, gas cards, oil changes and maintenance, or given to Peters as cash.
“He deserves every penny,” Langley said.
Peters said, in the end, he can’t believe the community pulled together to help him out in such a huge way. He said he already loved his job, but now, he’s sure to be smiling even bigger when he’s out delivering pizzas.
“I don’t want to be a person who’s just going through the motions, and be like, ‘Well, I’ve got to do this,’” he said. “I actually want to make people’s days better. I really do appreciate them, because after all, they’re paying my salary and livelihood.”