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East County Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018 3 years ago

Doughnut store raises funds, awareness for Epilepsy

Memory of store employee lives on through donation, doughnuts.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

It wasn’t like employee Alyssa Varner not to show up for work at Dunkin’ Donuts’ Lakewood Ranch location. 

She’d called in sick the day before, but store manager Samantha Johnson couldn’t believe the call she received the following day. 

Varner had died July 13 from an epileptic seizure at 24 years old.

Employees and customers joined to raise $1,000 to support Varner’s family. On Oct. 15, the Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee donated a matching $1,000 to Epilepsy Services of Southwest Florida, a nonprofit to help those affected by epilepsy to

manage their condition and lead as close to a normal life as possible.

Kevin Lindberg, executive director of the foundation, accepted a check during a brief ceremony with Varner’s family.

“We couldn’t keep going without contributions like this,” he said. 

Varner’s mother, Melissa Howell, said Dunkin’ Donuts has been a tremendous support to her and her family and Alyssa loved working there for the last five years.

Those afflicted with epilepsy sometimes have difficulty finding work because employers are hesitant to hire them. That was not the case with Dunkin’ Donuts, which provided her a job at different locations whenever she moved, Howell said. Varner used public transportation.

“They saw her as a person, not as someone with a disease,” Howell said. “Dunkin’ has been the biggest support.”

Co-store manager Janelle Massenburg even made “Alyssa” doughnuts for the day. They were purple vanilla-frosted doughnuts. Purple is the color representing epilepsy and happened to be Varner’s favorite color, as well.

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