Paterson, NJ (AP) – Nearly a dozen people surprised a New Jersey waitress with a $1,200 cash tip as an early holiday gift.

Zellie Thomas told that he and a group of his friends left the tip with a waitress at an IHOP restaurant in Paterson on Saturday. Each person brought $100 to the restaurant.

The waitress was so shocked that she tried to return the money at first, said Thomas.

Thomas, who is an activist and teacher, said he hopes the tip inspires others to do good deeds for strangers.

“I really hope this shows people that there’s power in community and all it takes is a group of friends to come together and change someone else’s life,” Thomas said. “You’d be really surprised, if you put that call out to your friends, how many people would be supportive of that idea.”