AMESBURY — What started out as a not-so-random act of kindness Saturday morning when a drive-thru customer at Heav’nly Donuts paid for the order of the motorist behind her, turned into an hour-plus-long testament to the power of positive thinking.

And when it was all over, 55 motorists paid it forward until there was no one behind the last driver, breaking the chain and giving the staff inside the Route 110 doughnut shop time to reflect on what had just happened.

“Everyone wanted to keep the smiles flowing,” Heav’nly Donuts employee and witness to hour-long event Tatiana Sipple said.

Another cashier, Kristen Swan, said the conga-line of generous customers at the drive-thru created an amazing buzz inside the store. All have witnessed shorter examples of what took place Saturday, but never to that extent.

The Route 110 branch of Heav’nly Donuts opened about two years ago and is located in the same parcel as a car wash, minutes away from Route 150 and Interstate 495. Its proximity to the highway makes it a popular destination throughout the week, with weekend mornings especially busy. There are at least 12 different Heav’nly Donuts franchises in the area, including two in Methuen, two in Haverhill, two in Salem, N.H., and others in North Andover, North Reading and Wilmington.

The morning of kindness started out like many other busy Saturday mornings, when a regular customer, whose first name is Irene, did what she did every Saturday and paid for the person behind her, according to Heav’nly Donuts staff.

“She’s here every Saturday and she always does this,” Swan said.

Typically what happens is that a handful of people will follow suit. But after each person was told by the cashier that their coffee, sandwiches and other items were paid for, they kept on paying it forward. What amazed staff was that it didn’t matter how much the person behind them would order, folks took care of the bill just the same. And as for the last person who took part in the pay it forward campaign, he just tipped the cashiers $3.

Word of the pay it forward campaign quickly spread as a relative of the woman who started it tweeted the accomplishment on Twitter. From there television news channels visited the doughnut shop and broadcast the story across the region.

“I think that was awesome — it was the talk of Market Basket,” Julie Runge, an employee of the Newburyport supermarket, said yesterday.

According to Swan, the occasion even made its way into Holy Family Parish in Amesbury, where a sermon based on the good deed was featured.

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