If a thief hadn’t slipped his hand into a tip jar while a Nervous Dog employee in Stow had her back turned, the coffee shop might never have affiliated with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.

Instead of turning over footage of the crime to the authorities, Nervous Dog owner Michael Litt launched a food drive for the alleged thief.

The first person to clean out her cupboards for the cause was the barista who had her tips taken.

Hundreds of pounds in donations piled up and a larger conversation about compassion and altruism peppered national and social media.

Litt decided to give the man a chance to claim his nonperishable items.

“If by December he hasn’t picked it up, we’re going to drive it over to the food bank instead,” Litt said in a recent interview.

The man never showed up. And that first donation to the food bank has grown into a viable collaboration. The coffee shop, through school fundraisers and specialty sales, donates enough proceeds from each sale of selected coffee bags to provide between five and eight meals to the needy.

“In circumstances like this, there is a temptation to respond with our lower nature,” Dan Flowers, president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, said in a statement. “Making the choice to convert this situation into compassion, love and generosity is representative of the goodness that is always evident in our region.”

— Doug Livingston