By Will Cadigan, CNN
When the dining room of an Ohio great-grandmother’s favorite restaurant closed due to staff shortages, she grabbed an apron without hesitation.
“I was here on opening day and was a regular,” Bonnie August, 81, told CNN at the Culver’s restaurant in Findlay. “I have my favorites for custard, I think we all have that. And I look at the flavor of the day and make a list and pick those days to meet up with friends.”
Danielle Doxsey, owner of the franchise store, said an influx of business and a shortage of staff forced her to close the dining room. “We didn’t want to overwhelm the staff,” she explained.
But that just didn’t sit well with Bonnie. “I don’t like to eat in my car,” she commented. “They should just open up.”
So she decided to do something about it. ‘I walked to the door,’ said Bonnie, ‘and Dani came to the door and said, ‘Oh Bonnie, I’m sorry, we’re not open.’ And I said, ‘I know. I want to apply.'”
Bonnie is a great-grandmother who previously worked in a factory after her husband was injured. “I just went to that factory and asked if I could fill out an application,” she said, “And they called me and asked me if I could start on the third shift Sunday night. And I said that would be perfect. I wanted to work , so I was available to my kids all day long. … So midnight worked great.”
Since she retired in 2009, she’s frequented her local Culver’s with friends and family, so she knew she had to help.
“I know the owner’s grandparents, parents and them, and they are wonderful, wonderful people and I wanted to help them, which is the main reason I came here,” emphasized Bonnie. “Just to help them stay open or open up.”
In many communities, the pandemic economy has endangered the future of local restaurants. One of the biggest problems facing businesses like the Culver’s franchise in Findlay is the labor shortage. According to the Labor Statistics Bureau, there were 10.4 million job openings across the country in September and only 6.5 million hired.
Since the start of the pandemic, millions of workers retired from the workforce, meaning workers still looking for a job now have choices when it comes to their jobs, and it shows: A record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September.
That’s where the hidden helpers of the pandemic, like Bonnie, have emerged.
“My job posting says runner,” she said, “I don’t run anymore, I just rush as fast as I can. … It’s just walking, taking the orders, taking the bag and walking to the car and giving it to the people and chat to see if I can make them laugh.”
Bonnie said her return to work came as a shock to her friends and family.
“Well, first they asked me if I was crazy. “You’re not going to work anymore.” And I said, well, I am for a while. … I know that if there’s any way I can help, it’s what I need to do.”
Doxsey agreed that Bonnie isn’t looking for extra attention. “She’s doing it because she really wants us to do good, and she wants to see us bloom,” she said. “She just really wants to help and that’s all she cares about.”
Bonnie said she hopes her story can inspire other hidden helpers to give back to the things they love. “Jump into the water. It can be fun,” she says. “If you have the opportunity to give back, give back. We got so much.”
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