In the 17 years since Gypsy Gilliam opened her State Farmers Market Restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina, her employees have become her extended family. So, to show her appreciation for their hard work, Gilliam, 71, decided to reward them with an all-expense-paid trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth: Disney World.
“They have blessed me beyond belief and I wanted to give them and their families an opportunity to enjoy something that they may otherwise not have the chance to do,” Gilliam tells Yahoo Lifestyle of her gift.
Rumors of the trip began flying around the kitchen of the Southern-food outpost just before Christmas.
“At first it was a rumor — nobody believed it,” Danielle Scott, a server at the restaurant tells Yahoo. “It didn’t really sink in until Gypsy called a meeting announced it and [the general manager] Chris posted a note asking who wanted to go!”
But when Gilliam made the official announcement, she says “The emotions in the room were what you would imagine — lots of happiness, tears, crazy dancing and excitement.”
As promised, Gilliam closed the restaurant for a couple of days during the week of Feb. 25 and boarded 20 employees and their families (totaling about 50 people) on a bus for the eigh-hour journey to the Orlando amusement park. For single mom Scott and her 9-year-old son Aiden — neither of whom had ever been to Disney World or Florida — it was the trip of a lifetime.
“Since I was a child, I have wanted to go. So to be able to take [Aiden] as a kid was a dream come true,” says Scott, adding that most of the servers at the restaurant are single moms, as well. “God only knows if or when I may be able to take him on my own.”
Thanks to Gilliam’s generosity, Scott was able to meet all her favorite childhood movie characters, including Peter Pan, with her son by her side.
“It was so amazing. I cried a couple of times,” Jasmine Kamel, another employee, told WRAL News. “I could cry right now. I don’t think she’ll ever understand how grateful we are for what she did for us.”
But Gilliam says that paying for the trip was “one of the greatest rewards of my life.”
She adds, “Having a restaurant where the team is your extended family is priceless. The togetherness and caring that we all share, well it’s me who is the lucky one, having a team like this where we just enjoy coming to work.”
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