Deedee Zgonis turned up at her pizza restaurant after a relaxing weekend away – but something was different. She wasn’t sure exactly what it was at first, but looking closer, she could see that a drastic change had taken place inside. Then as she stepped through the front door, her reaction was one of utter shock.
Deedee Zgonis is the owner of a pizza restaurant called Pizza Bella in Bedford, New Hampshire. Her husband, Yianni, used to run the show while she helped out part-time – but tragically Yianna passed away unexpectedly in 2012.
This left Zgonis in charge of the restaurant as well as trying to coming to terms with her husband’s passing. That naturally meant that she had to learn very quickly how to run a business; a daunting task for anyone, let alone a grieving widow.
So while Zgonis was figuring out how payrolls work – at the same time as trying to pay her mortgage – people around her were noticing how hard a time she was having. But Zgonis still kept going despite her grief.
Unsurprisingly, then, Zgonis had a mantra: “No matter what happens, you can overcome it.” And she was certainly doing her best to overcome this task, even if at times it no doubt seemed insurmountable. Then one day, she got a surprise phone call.
It was Eastern Bank on the line. In a surprising turn of events, the bank told Zgonis she had been chosen to receive a treat, courtesy of its “Good Things Happen to Good People” project. It turned out that Debbie Blondin, Zgonis’ banker, had nominated her.
“She has a fabulous local business, but… she’s one of those people who gives probably more than she gets,” Blondin told the Union Leader. And so, Eastern Bank sent Zgonis off for a spa weekend in Florida as a reward for her efforts.
Of course, Zgonis had a fantastic weekend away – but she had no idea that there were more surprises to come. In fact, there were a bunch of people working hard all over that weekend to do something even more amazing for her.
So when Zgonis returned from her trip, she headed straight to the restaurant. But as she opened the door, her heart skipped a beat: something was different; her pizzeria had been transformed.
Stepping through the door, Zgonis gasped, “Oh my God! Are you kidding me?” Yes, the whole interior of the restaurant had been redone. And the group of family, friends and volunteers responsible were waiting inside to see Zgonis’ reaction.
It turned out that the spa trip was just a way of getting Zgonis out of town for the weekend. After all, her loved ones knew that she had wanted to revamp the restaurant for a while, so they decided to pull together and do it for her.
And Zgonis was beyond grateful for their hard work. “I couldn’t believe it,” she told the Union Leader. “My knees just buckled from under me.” Indeed, her reaction that night when she was asked if she liked the revamp was priceless.
“It’s frickin’ beautiful!” she screamed in response. But the best part of the surprise was still to come: two special people appeared from around the corner, and Zgonis totally lost it.
It was two of her daughters. Both had moved away from the area, but the bank had arranged for them to join her other daughter as part of the decorating team. In a video of the event, Zgonis burst into tears, completely overwhelmed by the emotion of the day.
Afterwards, Zgonis was so grateful to the bank for choosing her. Speaking to the Union Leader, she admitted that she had been faced with choosing between remodeling the restaurant and installing a new oven.
But the bank kindly did one of them for her. “People come into my life that are just beautiful people, and I’m lucky that way,” Zgonis said. “I don’t know what makes me more deserving than anyone else.”
However, Blondin said Zgonis was “the perfect candidate” to win the prize, describing her as “the sweetheart of Eastern Bank.” And she was pleased to see someone so grateful to receive help.
The Zgonis daughters were delighted for their mom, too. Themie, who lives in California, said, “We just cannot describe how grateful we are for this entire process, and how beautiful Pizza Bella is looking.”
And Litza, who lives in New York, remarked that being nominated was “really validating” for her mom. It gave her “the extra boost of confidence that she deserves.” Their father would have be “floored,” according to the third Zgonis daughter, Vicki.
And after receiving such an amazing helping hand from the community, Zgonis was able to enjoy one last perk thanks to Eastern Bank. Luckily, she got to have Thanksgiving with all three of her daughters under the same roof.