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Waitress' Tip Inspires Ex-Firefighter To Volunteer In Peekskill

Anthony Austin, a retired New York City firefighter and volunteer at the Salvation Army community center in Peekskill, bags up bagels.
Anthony Austin, a retired New York City firefighter and volunteer at the Salvation Army community center in Peekskill, bags up bagels. Photo Credit: Submitted

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- Anthony Austin was having a leisurely breakfast at a Peekskill diner when a waitress turned the tables and gave him the tip of a lifetime.

A knee injury had forced the New York City firefighter to hang up his helmet after 24 years on the job and he was wondering where the road would lead next.

What the waitress suggested – volunteering – was, Austin admitted recently, literally “the furthest thing” from his mind.

But the call to action stuck and before long, Austin found himself walking into the The Salvation Army’s community center.

The office manager there was so inviting, he said, that she put Austin to work the very first day.

But, he added, smiling: “It didn’t feel like work at all.”

Austin started volunteering in the soup kitchen with James McNair, aka Jimmy Mack, a professional comedian known for cooking up laughter as well as hearty meals.

“He kept the place lighthearted and lively,” Austin said.

In June 2015, McNair was killed in a car wreck that also injured his friend, comedian Tracy Morgan, who is known for his work on NBC’s "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live."

“It’s not the same without Jimmy, but I want to keep volunteering,” Austin said.

So twice a week, he returns and carries on the work that was so close to his friend’s heart.

Known for his outgoing personality, Austin always has a hug and a smile for everyone at the center.

The Salvation Army says Austin’s “get-the-job-done attitude” and compassion not only inspires other volunteers, but “makes all the difference” to the many folks he helps in the community.

The Salvation Army is located at 117 Nelson Ave.

To reach the organization, call (914)-737-0280.

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