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East Moline man brings people together and keeps them laughing during the pandemic

Leo Kaalberg started posting food reviews and recommendations a year ago. Almost a year later, thousands of people are hooked.

EAST MOLINE, Ill. — Social media can be divisive, but one man has found a perfect way to bring everyone together.

Leo Kaalberg started posting food reviews and recommendations a year ago. Almost a year later, thousands of people are hooked.

"He brought us together, interacting with each other about food," says Becky Pernell. "A  sense of normalcy to everyone during the pandemic. He's sometimes a little funnier than he thinks he is." 

Kaalberg started out with 30 followers on his page Out to Eat with Leo. That quickly grew to more than 3,000.

"(Food is) something that we can all get around," he says. "Eating dinner at a table and having a bite to eat with a bunch of friends or going out, it really is a way for us to de-stress and get back to living again."

Pernell says his humor and kindness are why she nominated him for the Pay It Forward award, sponsored by Ascentra Credit Union.

That recognition comes after a difficult year for Kaalberg. He and his wife both had COVID, which he says they're still feeling the effects of. But nothing has stopped him from doing good things in the community.

Kaalberg has now started Cakes for Causes. He hosts cake tasting events with local bakeries to help raise money for non-profits. The next one is coming up on May 22.

"I didn't think it'd last a couple months," he says. "Now I'm at a year and still going. People just have gravitated toward it and it's been a great time."

If you know someone you'd like to nominate for the Pay It Forward award, click here.