ROCKFORD - Boone County Family Restaurant waitresses Amy Sabani, 25, Sarah Seckinger, 23, and Amber Kariolich, 28, stared in disbelief Saturday as a blond-haired woman inexplicably handed them each $5,000 checks.
Sabani at first thought her check might say $500. But on closer inspection, she saw, yes, it was $5,000. She tried to decline it.
But the woman whose identity the waitresses and restaurant are protecting, insisted that she and the other waitresses take it.
"I want you girls to take these to help with school and everything else in life," the woman said over their objections. "Yes, you can take it. You put that in your pocket. God sent me here to help you."
It had been a slow morning at the restaurant that serves up tasty-looking cinnamon apple pancakes. As the waitresses "folded" silverware, they had been chatting about life, the student loans and bills piling up and dreams of returning to or finishing school.
Seckinger had noticed the woman watching them, but had thought maybe the she was merely interested in what they were saying.
Seckinger has worked at the restaurant for six years but dreams of becoming a police officer. She has previously tested to become a Boone County Sheriff's Police deputy.
Seckinger said although she has a single semester left to earn her associate degree in criminal justice, it had become too expensive for her. She plans to use the money to return to school, finish the degree and perhaps get a leg up at the next police officer test.
She plans to continue working at the restaurant.
"It's like a family here," Seckinger said.
That could be because Boone County Family Restaurant is a family-owned restaurant at the intersection of Routes 173 and 76 in Caledonia operated by Matt Nebiu. His father and uncle founded the business in 1982.
Nebiu said although the woman had been in the restaurant before, she wasn't a regular.
"I've never seen anything like this in 30-something years here," Nebiu said. "I've heard of it in other places, but not in this town or this area."