TAPPAHANNOCK, Va. — Customers at the Burger King in Tappahannock can always expect drive-thru employee Lisa Bateman to greet them with a friendly hello and a smile.
“She knows my order,” Jaki Vazquez said. “As soon as she hears my voice, she’s like, ‘Do you want the usual?”
Jason Cunningham says he can never tell if Bateman is having a bad day.
“You go through the drive-thru at any given time, and she’s just as sweet,” he said.
In fact, Bateman, 60, was one of the original employees when the Burger King opened near the Rappahannock River in 1987.
But for the last seven years, Bateman has walked nearly a mile down Tappahannock Boulevard to her shifts. She walked in the snow, rain, heat, and cold.
“I see her walking all the time, and I figured it would be nice to do something like this for someone in our community,” Cunningham said.
The chatter of giving back to Bateman started with a post on the “What’s going on in Tappahannock” Facebook page. The post quickly turned into a community-wide fundraiser to buy her a new car.
“We set up a GoFundMe, and we raised a little over $4,200 for her,” Vazquez said.
Within a week and a half, 135 people donated to the GoFundMe.
Cunningham then traveled to Fredericksburg, where he found a clean, low-mileage maroon 2007 Buick and drove it back to Tappahannock.
On Monday afternoon, they waited until Lisa’s shift at Burger King ended at 2 p.m.
“We as a town of Tappahannock wanted to show you a little bit of appreciation for your hard work, for always giving us positive energy,” Vazquez told Bateman.
She then handed Bateman the keys to her new car. Tears immediately started flowing as Bateman held her face in her hands.
Vazquez also gave Bateman the cash leftover from the fundraiser to help her pay for insurance and tags.
After the tears dried, Bateman said she lost her car when she was laid off from her job at Sheetz seven years ago. That didn’t stop her from working at Burger King and a second job at Wendy’s.
“I just look at it this way, just like I told my manager, as long as my little legs can take me, I’m going to do it,” Bateman said. “I’m going to work.”
It was a grand gesture in a small town that proved neighbors look out for one another.
“In under two weeks, we were able to gather all this money between a small community,” Vazquez said. “It just shows she is appreciated.”
This story was originally published by Brendan King on Scripps station WTVR in Richmond, Virginia.