This story could have had a much different outcome if it hadn't been for the wonderful owner and staff of The Green Burrito in Cypress.
My oldest brother and I took Mom back to The Green Burrito a couple days after her return. We thanked the staff and they told my Mom how good it was to see her again.
When they left us, she wanted to know who they were so we explained that they were the ones who found her and made sure she returned home safely. She insisted she had never been there before and didn't know what we were talking about of course.
Well, at least she wasn't traumatized or emotionally scarred over the whole experience. A blessing of having dementia I suppose.
After we took Mom home, I told my brother I wanted to have the whole family eat dinner at The Green Burrito as a thank you to them. He thought it was a great idea and told me to plan it.
Now I'm known in the family as an organizer of events. I used to be involved in the Christian music industry and organized events at stores and churches. I even coordinated a 3-day music festival at a ski resort once. The most recent thing I had organized was the letter writing campaign and Olympic event at Grounds with the Women's Water Polo team the previous year. So when I start thinking about planning something, it quite often snowballs to a bigger level in my mind.
I can not properly express the gratitude I was feeling about the folks at The Green Burrito. My Mom was returned home safely simply because they were alert and cared. I work in a bakery and I've gotten to know a bunch of my customers pretty well after almost 10 years. I care about them deeply. But I also know I see more than 100 of them a day. I don't know them all and I wouldn't necessarily know if someone needed help.
So I talked with my brother again and asked him how he would feel about inviting friends and family in on a certain day to thank them, bring them a card and give them a little additional business. He thought it was a great idea and then talked to the owner to see if it was alright with him. The owner, Frank, said it wasn't necessary but that we could do that.
So I planned an "Appreciation Event" on a Sunday between 6 - 8 p.m. and sent a letter out to my prayer group and customers. I also printed some fliers to give to a few customers and coworkers at work.
The day after I began inviting people, I received a phone call from our district's City Council member, Gerrie Schipske. She told me she couldn't attend the event but wanted to send them a proclamation from the city. I was a bit surprised the City of Long Beach would do this. The restaurant was in Cypress and my Mom lived in Anaheim. Other than me working in Long Beach, it really had nothing to do with the city. She said that didn't matter and asked if she could do it. This was really unexpected and nice - especially since I had e-mailed and called every single member of the City Council in Cypress. (Not a single member has returned my call or e-mail to this day.)
The day after that, several customers came in and told me they were glad my Mom was found safe and asked me how she was doing. These were customers I didn't know real well so I was a little surprised they knew about my Mom. Then one customer came in during lunch, asked me how my Mom was doing and said they were going into The Green Burrito. When I asked how she knew about that, she answered, "Well, it's in the paper."
The look on my face must have been one of complete confusion because she then asked, "You haven't seen it? The whole story is in today's paper."
Guess what I would be doing as soon as I got off work?
Then another customer came in and mentioned how glad they were my Mom was safe and how nice the story was. When she found out I hadn't seen it yet, she ran over to the grocery store and bought me two copies while she was waiting for her food. I didn't get to read it until a couple hours later.
Tim Grobaty, who had mentioned me once before in the Long Beach Press Telegram, had taken the letter I wrote to my prayer group inviting them to The Green Burrito and wrote a story about the day's events and invited everyone to show their gratitude.
Here is his article. The part about my Mom is highlighted.
What' Hot: Everything is better when it's on a stick
By Tim Grobaty, Columnist
Posted: 03/25/2009 09:17:01 PM PDT
STICK-Y FOOD: We appreciate readers as thorough and faithful as longtime Long Beachers and Olympian rowers John and Joan Van Blom. On Wednesday, as we cheerily assume he does every day, John read all the way through the paper, from our column (about squirrels) to the end of the Food section (about mushrooms and pesto dip) and tied it all together in an e-mail:
"Geez," Van Blom wrote. "Is it just me, or does the picture of mushrooms with pesto dip on the last page of the food section look like squirrel-on-a-stick?"
We have to admit that the be-sticked mushrooms look pretty squirrely to varying degrees depending, we're guessing, on what kind of mushrooms you're using, if you catch our hallucinogenic drift.
The mushrooms on a stick, we have to admit, looks darned tasty to us, perhaps because we have always held to the belief that there is no food that can't be made tastier by putting it on a stick.
Of course, you can grill squirrel, though we practically beg you not to do it; you have to boil the bejabbers out of it for hours and then grill it to the point that it becomes little more than a rugged, all-terrain vehicle for whatever kind of sauce you put on it to mask any remnant of flavor that survives the grueling cooking process.
And, while things improve greatly by putting the grilled squirrel on a stick, it won't look anywhere near as cute as the mushroom version/vision that Van Blom experienced, and it'll taste a lot worse.
GROUNDS FOR GRATITUDE: Rosie Hendrix, who runs Grounds Bakery on Spring Street in the Prestigious Plaza area of Long Beach - sometimes wielding a whip in a show of her fondness for Indiana Jones - was given a huge jolt of terror a few days ago when her mom walked away from the Anaheim facility in which she was being cared for.
For 13 horrifying hours, Rosie's 84-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia and heart ailments, was off the radar even as family members and friends fanned out across town searching for her.
She wandered who knows where, confused and lost, until she was found (to wrench the suspense out of the story), cared for and returned by the evening workers at the Green Burrito in Cypress.
Rosie, we hardly need to tell you, was relieved and appreciative to no end and to show her gratitude and that of her family and friends, she is inviting everyone she knows to come out to the Green Burrito, 10015 Valley View St., Cypress, "to thank them for helping someone who desperately needed help."
She would like people to bring a note of thanks or a drawing to give to the employees, and maybe buy dinner there because, says Rosie, "today's world has become an unsure place, so it's important to recognize those who go out of their way to help others.
They made a difference in my world by making sure Mom came home safe to our family."
I was floored. As soon as I got off work I called him to thank him and left message that I would buy him and his family dinner if they came.
I was already in shock when I checked my messages and found one from KNX Talk Radio saying they loved the story and were naming The Green Burrito owner and staff "Heroes of the Week."
Could this get any better?
That night my oldest brother and I met Frank at his restaurant for dinner. I brought the newspaper to show him the article and we were surprised to find they already knew about it. You see, a really nice family had come in earlier to have lunch and gave them a thank you card. When they asked the family how they had heard about it, they said they had read it in the newspaper. The assistant manager quickly sent out one of the employees to go buy papers. After that, they received more cards.
On the day of the event, someone sent flowers thanking them for caring and going above and beyond. I took in balloons and made them a paint bucket for people to drop their cards in. They had the proclamation from the City of Long Beach on the wall, the article in the paper I had framed for them on the counter and more than a dozen thank you cards. Over 40 friends, customers, coworkers and family attended the event. Frank enjoyed talking to everyone and gave all the kids in attendance free ice cream.
Over all, it was nice to see so many people take time out of their busy lives to drop off a card or come by that night for dinner. It was heartwarming to see that so many people cared.