WATERLOO, Ill. — The Denny's in Waterloo had a line out the front door Wednesday with people wrapped around the front of the building. Overall, business was about four times higher than an average Wednesday. But the business is not keeping any of the money they made.
"You guys know that tonight we are doing the gathering for Nick Hopkins family?" server Paige Russell asked her table. "OK. Just wanted everybody to know."
A hundred percent of the proceeds during the fundraiser on Sept. 11 will benefit the family of fallen Illinois State Trooper Nick Hopkins.
"I've heard a lot of stories today, shed a few tears, fixed my face a few times," General Manager Rebecca Counsell said. "Definitely there are a lot of people who knew him and came out because they love what we're doing, they love to give back."
Counsell and her husband — who is a district manager for the company — decided to hold the fundraiser when they saw neighbors line the street at Hopkins' body was returned home.
Former police officer Bubba Barron came to show his support -- twice. He came in the morning for breakfast, but then returned at dinner with his wife.
He's grateful to see the large crowds, though the sight is bittersweet.
"Proud, happy, and sad," Barron said. "[I'm] sad that it's crowded for this reason."
Some of these servers and support staff — 32 in total — drove from around Illinois and across state lines to be at the fundraiser. They provided much-needed help for the long shifts.
"I actually felt honored, to be honest," Eureka, Mo.-based server Emily Rathert said. "Honored that I could do something to give back because we don't really get too many opportunities like that."
Counsell said Denny's raised $16,000 for the Counsell said.