Kristi McCarthy of Auburn says “Thank you” to Jeff Mitchell, owner of Family Time Dine & Play who gave McCarthy and her three children a large pizza and ice cream for free in Auburn on Thursday. “This was a surprise for the kids and a way to get them out of the house,” she said. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Ten cars were lined up at the back door of Family Time Dine & Play 30 minutes before showtime Thursday morning.

Sally Knight of Lewiston accepts a large cheese pizza outside Family Time Dine & Play in Auburn on Thursday. Knight said  she is feeling fine and does not have coronavirus symptoms but is taking precautions to protect the elderly she cares for. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Behind the door, owner Jeff Mitchell, two of his children and a few volunteer employees rolled out pizzas as fast as they could.

The employees had been told that they no longer had a job on Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic, “but they decided to come anyway,” said Mitchell from Poland.

When the door opened at noon in the Auburn Mall parking lot, more than 30 cars were in line as the drivers waited for one of 50 free large, cheese pizzas to be handed through their car window.

“We closed as of Monday,” Mitchell said. “The dough was not going to last so we decided to donate.”

Many tried to tip Mitchell, but he refused. “Keep your money,” he said.

Making pizzas to accommodate multiple birthday parties at once is the norm for Ashley Cloutier, but making 50 is not. “This is the most pizzas I have ever made at once,” she said.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Mitchell’s 12-year-old son, Andrew, folded 50 cardboard pizza boxes in exchange for tokens to the Family Time arcade.

Mitchell made the decision to pay his employees through the end of the week regardless if they helped Thursday.

Kaitlyn Gammon of Turner came in and handed ice cream cups to each waiting child. Ed Mitchell of Poland showed up to pull pizzas from the oven and Cloutier volunteered to make the pizzas. Numerous former employees grabbed cleaning supplies and crawled through tunnels and cargo nets to disinfect the Crazy Maze for when the business returns to normal hours.

“The way I look at it,” Jeff Mitchell said, “is if I’m loyal to my employees, they will be loyal to me.” He’s paying them one week severance even though he did not have to.

“This is amazing,” Kristi McCarthy of Auburn said as she and her three children waited in their car for one large free pizza. “This was a surprise for the kids and a way to get them out of the house. “This is way more than we expected,” McCarthy said as her children dipped into their free ice cream cups.

Jeff Mitchell hands out free large pizzas to a line of waiting people outside Family Time Dine & Play in Auburn on Thursday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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