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When a worker shortage closed her favorite restaurant’s dining room, a retiree grabbed an apron to help

<i>CNN</i><br/>When the dining room of an Ohio great-grandmother's favorite restaurant closed due to staffing shortages
When the dining room of an Ohio great-grandmother's favorite restaurant closed due to staffing shortages

By Will Cadigan, CNN

When the dining room of an Ohio great-grandmother’s favorite restaurant closed because of staffing shortages, she grabbed an apron without hesitation.

“I was here opening day and have been a regular,” Bonnie August, 81, told CNN, at the Culver’s restaurant in Findlay. “I have my favorites as far as custard, I think we all do. And I watch the flavor of the day and list and pick those days to meet with friends.”

Danielle Doxsey, owner of the franchised fast-food outlet, 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 eating in my car,” she remarked. “They just got to get open.”

So she decided to do something about it. “I walked up to the door,” Bonnie said, “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 got injured. “I just went over 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 Sunday night on third shift. And I said that would be perfect. I wanted to work so I was available all day for my children. … So midnights worked wonderful.”

Since retiring in 2009, she frequented her local Culver’s with friends and family, so she knew she had to help out.

“I’ve known the owner’s grandparents, parents and them, and they are wonderful, wonderful people and I wanted to help them, is the main reason I came here,” Bonnie emphasized. “Just to help them be able to stay open or get open.”

In many communities, the pandemic economy has put the future of local restaurants at risk. One of the biggest issues facing businesses like the Culver’s franchise in Findlay is the labor shortage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 10.4 million open jobs across the country in September and only 6.5 million workers hired.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of workers have dropped out of the labor force, meaning workers still looking for a job now have choices when it comes to their employment, 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 stepped up.

“My job listing says runner,” she said, “I don’t run anymore, I just hurry as fast as I can. … It’s just walking, getting the orders, taking the bag and walking to the car and giving it to the people and making a little small talk just to see if I can make them smile.”

Bonnie said returning 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 go back to work.’ And I said, well, I am for a little while. … I know that if there’s a way I can help, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Doxsey agreed Bonnie isn’t looking for any extra attention. “She does it because she genuinely wants us to do good, and she wants to see us thrive,” she said. “It’s just she is genuinely wanting 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 in the water. It can be fun,” she said. “If you have a chance to give back, give back. We’ve been given so much.”

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