TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Heidi Nitti loves to cook and loves to bake, and not just for her family. Every week, the New York native delivers delicious goodies to families in need at her Tempe apartment complex.
"That's what makes me feel good," said Nitti. "When other people enjoy my cooking and my baking, it just gives me joy to know that I can put a smile on somebody's face. I try to do that at least once a day."
The kind-hearted chef, whose neighbors know her as "Mama Heidi," has used her cooking as a way to cope with personal tragedy. Nitti's young son died a number of years ago and being in the kitchen was a way to fight through the pain. Mama Heidi sees families struggling during the current health crisis, and immediately wants to help them out.
"If somebody is not doing well in a day, and I turn that around, that's very important to me, because of what I've been through in my life," said Nitti.
Desi Tuipulotu works at the Tides Lakeside Apartments and has seen first-hand Mama Heidi's kindness and generosity, with sweets dropped off in the office on a regular basis.
Tuipolotu reached out to CBS 5 to Pay It Forward to Mama Heidi and thank her for all she does.
"She's so giving and we don't meet very many people like that, especially now, because everyone is going through a crisis," said Tuipolotu. "She just keeps giving and giving."
A CBS 5 News crew showed up at the apartment complex recently to surprise Mama Heidi and give her a $500 gift card.
"We as a community - we see everything you do," said Tuipolotu. "How you go to the pantry - give the guys food and do all that stuff - we really wanted to show you that we appreciate it."
"You're so selfless," added Tuipolotu. "You just cook, bring us cupcakes and cheesecakes and food and make sure everyone is taken care of before you are."
"So, wanted to let you know from Channel 5 and give you a $500 gift card to help with whatever you need," said Tuipolotu.
"I never turn anybody down," said Nitti. "Never. We always have to be there for each other - no matter what."