The heart of B’s Diner is its owners: Brenda Der and her husband Bob Ziniak. The fact that this is no ordinary diner is evident by Brenda’s comment: “We just feel that this is our home. And we want to bring people into our home.”
Shortly after they opened the diner in 2002, Brenda noticed people in the back alley regularly going through garbage dumpsters, carrying what they could in their shopping carts. She was emotionally impacted by talking to them and the pain she saw. She decided to help.
Brenda started to feed the people that were hungry. And she invited those that were cold into her warm restaurant.
Shortly after, she and her husband began holding weekly dinners for the less fortunate. They covered the cost of these dinners through their tips and donations from customers. On occasion, they would provide entertainment: a movie and popcorn or a karaoke night.
This week, Brenda and Bob will host their annual Christmas celebration, which includes a meal and entertainment by many of the diner’s clientele. While everyone is invited, the Christmas meal will be free for the under-privileged. Others who can afford it are asked to bring a donation.
Their generosity is even more inspirational when we hear about Brenda and Bob’s own financial struggles. Last summer, their son, Jeremy, died when he was swept into an undercurrent. The diner was closed for two months after his death, leaving the couple with unpaid bills and arrears in rent payments. Not to mention the unexpected funeral costs for their son.
Their beloved customers were quick to help. Not only did they join an 18 day search for their son’s body, they threw a fundraiser to help the family with the bills and arrears so that they could reopen the diner.
Many of the customers support Brenda and Bob’s efforts through contributing to the B’s Diner Outreach. They donate things like money, clothing and sleeping bags. One customer said, “In a sense, it’s like a community project. It’s very much a restaurant where we are both customers and participants.”
Recently, Brenda and Bob have faced additional financial stress: the transmission in their van died and the two ovens in their restaurant broke down – irreparable due to age. They have no money to replace the ovens.
Yet, in spite of their added difficulties, the Christmas celebration will go on, albeit, at a different location. How does Brenda respond to the breakdown of the ovens?
“We’ve had bigger hurdles than that this year, a lot bigger. As down as we are, it helps to do this. It does make me feel better to help other people.”
Kindness and generosity at work goes hand in hand with spirit at work. Not only does the person receiving the act of kindness benefit, so too does the person showing kindness and anyone observing. It just feels good to help another out or to see someone being helped out.
How are you offering the gift of giving at work? Is there something that you and your colleagues can be doing? What about your organization?
Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and professional speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.