Homesick: she’s from California, living in the middle-of-nowhere Ohio, after all.
Physically sick: she’d had a sinus infection since she moved in a month before.
And to top it all off: her dog had just died.
First-year psychology major Isabella Fordyce had more than a couple reasons to be crying on September 13. It didn’t help that her roommate was studying in their shared living space, so Fordyce had to relocate to the dim, echoey stairwell of Tappan Hall.
Her mom, Jessica Fordyce, was far more than an arm’s length away. In sunny California, 2,500 miles away, there was little she could do to comfort her eldest daughter, the first she had sent away to college.
So she did some research.
Scouring the Miami University Parents and Family Members Facebook page for a restaurant to deliver chicken noodle soup to Tappan Hall, she settled on Bob Evans. But night was falling, and restaurants around Oxford were approaching closing time – the online order form for Bob Evans wasn’t working.
“So I called Bob Evans and spoke to a woman,” Jessica said, “and explained to her that I was trying to order it online, and she said ‘Oh, try doing it through DoorDash.’ And she told me I needed to download the app.”
But Doordash didn’t work either.
Back to the phone Jessica went.
Jessica knew her daughter was sick in her residence hall and hadn’t eaten dinner. When she explained this to the woman on the phone, assistant manager Amanda Neeley-Horsley, she was met with a midwestern hospitality that warmed her California heart.
Neeley-Horsley said she would send an employee over to the hall (for $5) to personally deliver the food, with no charge to the family.
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“I was just so touched and crying,” Jessica said.
As tears welled in Jessica’s eyes, she explained the hat trick of Isabella’s misfortune, the euthanasia of their 11-year-old dog. Neeley-Horsley wasted no time throwing biscuits and pumpkin pie into the meal, again at no charge.
The day after her daughter was showered with hometown, family-farm food, Jessica posted the story in the Parents Page. The post was screenshotted and posted in Oxford Talk, where it gained over 1,000 likes and 100 comments from the community.
People praised Neeley-Horsley for her kindness, one commenter saying it was one of the best posts of the season. But the assistant manager said it was just a simple act for someone in need.
“A lot of people were talking about ‘hero’ and everything, and I’m by far no hero,” she said. “[I’m] just trying to make somebody’s day.”
Isabella, who echoed her mother’s sentiment of midwestern hospitality generally lost on Californians, said Neeley-Horsley’s generosity did make her day, and reminded her that the world is not all bad.
“I guess it was just nice even having a support system, like even with strangers,” Isabella said. “It was just super nice and made me feel a lot better and cared for.”
Much to her Cleveland-native roommate’s surprise, this was also Isabella’s first taste of Bob Evans’ ‘down on the farm’ food.
And she was not disappointed.
“This is honestly the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had,” Isabella wrote in a text to her mother, alongside a picture of the half-eaten dessert.
Jessica contacted corporate to make sure Neeley-Horsley got the recognition she deserved and also gave the restaurant a glowing Yelp review. Then, over family weekend, Jessica got to meet the woman who restored her faith in humanity.
She paid a visit to the Oxford Bob Evans, and gave Neeley-Horsley flowers, thanking her for everything she had done.
The small-town feel of Oxford reassured Jessica that she sent her daughter to the right place.
“It made me feel better that I sent my daughter to school in the midwest,” she said. “[I] sent her to a very caring place, and she kind of wanted that small-town feel, and I feel like these are the benefits of having a smaller town.”