BEMENT, Ill. (WCIA) – You can smell it right when you come to town, and for the less than 1,500 people who live in Bement, Mama Tea’s Pizza has been a staple.

Now the small town is getting back to the work they love so much.

“High school kids are about 75 or 80 percent of my lunch crowd,” said owner Tara Garrett.

Garrett has been making everyone happy with pizza since she was 15 years old.

“That’s the main reason we’re open for lunch, Monday through Friday, is to feed the kids,” Garrett added.

After working in the pizza business most of her adult life, Garrett finally bought the restaurant more than four years ago.

“We come here every day to eat lunch, eat, have a good time, and talk,” Bement High School student Cody Robinson said. “Just the normal things we do at lunch.”

Dozens of kids like Robinson share similar feelings about the hotspot in their hometown.

“Mama T’s is the best,” Robinson said.

However, recently, misfortune resulting from a broken furnace has hit the business hard.

“We’ve been having problems with it for about two years,” Garrett explained.

So Garrett’s friend and employee, Shelley, started a GoFundMe campaign, which has already raised more than $3,500 for a new furnace.

“Shelly wanted to start a GoFundme, and I tried to tell her no,” Garrett said. “I said people wouldn’t donate to businesses, and she said, ‘Let me prove you wrong,'” Garrett said.

Boy, I did.

“I spent a few different days crying and reading all the sweet messages people said,” Garrett said. “I was blown away by how much people were willing to donate.”

Now, thanks to the generosity of the community she has supported for so long, she is getting a “new” used oven.

“I’m not exactly sure how old this piece is, but it appears to be the one I started cooking on when I was 15, 31 years ago,” Garrett said.

Thank you to the community that fills her heart, as she fills their stomachs.

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