Anonymous donor helps local restaurant feed heroes

Ionia County

PORTLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — In the weeks that have followed the governor’s shutdown of non-essential businesses people have stepped up to give back, lend a hand and help local restaurants and shops keep their doors open however they can. 

One anonymous donor in Portland paid it forward with a gift he hopes will be two-fold.

News 8 spoke with the donor who asked to be left anonymous who said, “I don’t want any recognition for this, I simply do what I can to help out the community.”

In this case, that was giving $1,000 to Wagon Wheel American Grill in Portland. 

“Thank you, very much. We appreciate it. My employees appreciate it, and it goes a long way to help a lot of people,” owner of Wagon Wheel Terry Schrauben said. “It’s disheartening to see your place empty…”

Schrauben, who purchased the Portland burger joint from his father Herm some 25 years ago says the hardest part is laying off employees who have been with their family for decades.

“One day you’re like, yup, we can do this. The next day you’re like, you just want to cry and the next day you’re kind of mad. So, it’s just, really taken a toll on our employees,” Schrauben said. “It’s disheartening to have employees that have worked for you for 20 some years and tell them that they can’t work for you for a while.”

The business has been able to survive by selling its food as takeout as so many restaurants have had to do. Wagon Wheel is also a bowling alley and Schrauben explains the loss in revenue is hard to make up, but he remains positive the community he loves will help pull them through.

“I told my kids, this is going to be a 9/11 event. It’s going to change the way we do everything for the rest of our lives,” Schrauben said. “The people of Portland have been very generous to us and our workers and so it’s working out pretty well. You have to adapt and change you know?”

Which is exactly why Schrauben was overjoyed when one anonymous donor came forward with a plan to give back, a gift he hoped would be two-fold. 

“He simply told us, here’s a thousand dollars. I’d like you to break it up into gift certificates and give them to heroes on the front lines fighting the virus here in Ionia County,” Schrauben said. “So, we tried to figure out where we could do the most good with the amount of money. I think that the sheriff’s department does a great job. Whenever we have a problem, they’re always here to help us. There’s a lot more employees that don’t get recognized than just the patrol officers and we wanted to recognize them.”

The money was broken up into $20 gift certificates given to 45 employees at the Ionia County Sheriff’s Department and five given to the Portland Police Department. 

“We appreciate it. We certainly didn’t expect it but it’s a very gracious offer and my staff are going to, I’m sure, take him up on the certificates and get some meals,” Ionia County Sheriff Charlie Noll said. “It’s a very rewarding thing to know that as we serve the community, they give back and it was a very nice gesture on his part. It’s those little things that really, you know, it even brings warmth to our hearts.”

Schrauben says he’s happy to be the middleman, receiving a financial gift, giving food to those working hard to keep us safe.

“We appreciate everything they do. In front of the scenes and behind the scenes. They’re very important to us and we thank them.” Schrauben said. “It’s just, it’s a very humbling experience when people are thankful for things that you give them.”

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