BEMENT, Ill. (WCIA) — You can smell it right when you come into town, and for the fewer than 1,500 people who live in Bement, Mama T’s Pizza has been a staple.

Now the small town is giving back to the business they love so much.

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

Garrett has been in the business of making everyone happy with pizza since she was 15.

“That is the main reason why we are 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 up here every day for lunch, eat, have a good time, talk,” said Bement High School student Cody Robinson. “Just the normal things we do at lunch.”

Dozens of kids like Robinson share a similar sentiment toward their hometown hotspot.

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

Recently, however, bad luck from a busted oven has hit the business hard.

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

So Garrett’s friend and employee Shelly started a GoFundMe, already raising more than $3,500 toward a new oven.

“Shelly wanted to start the GoFundme, and I tried to tell her no,” Garrett said. “I said people are not going to donate to a business, and she’s like ‘Let me prove you wrong,'” Garrett said.

Boy, did she.

“I spent a few different days crying and reading all the nice messages people had to say,” Garrett said. “I was just flabbergasted at how much people were willing to donate.”

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

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

Thanks to a community filling her heart, because she fills their bellies.

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