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Cafe owner ‘overwhelmed’ with support following theft of donated money

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ROBERTS — Connie Rafferty is “completely overwhelmed and grateful” for the outpouring of support she’s received since a thief stole money meant to help fulfill her lifelong dream.

EastIdahoNews.com first reported on Rafferty two weeks ago. Since March, she’s been renovating the restaurant at the Teton Truck Stop near Interstate 15 in Roberts in order to open the Wild Rose Bakery Cafe. Rafferty has wanted to own a restaurant since she was 12 but when she signed the lease, she quickly realized the cafe needed a lot of work.

RELATED | THIEF STEALS DONATIONS FROM WOMAN RESTORING OLD CAFE WITH QUILTING FRIENDS

Grease was on everything, tile and paint needed replacing, kitchen equipment was outdated, and every corner, from floor to ceiling, had to be scrubbed.

“Someone left in a hurry. I don’t know who or when, but there was a lot to clean up,” Rafferty said. “I am very blessed to have a group of dear friends who volunteered to help me.”

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The restaurant needed major renovations when Connie Rafferty took it over in March 2021. | Courtesy Connie Rafferty

Those friends are all women in their 60s, 70s and 80s and members of the Snake River Valley Quilt Guild. They have spent nearly every weekday cleaning and fixing up the building. In April, they asked their fellow quilters to donate money so a professional window washer could be hired for the cafe. The quilters surprised Rafferty with $360 and she was “flabbergasted.” The money was set on a shelf in the back of the restaurant, and the crew continued working. Hours later, the cash was gone.

“We did have a couple of sales reps show up that day, and they were in the vicinity of where the cash was briefly,” Rafferty said. “It was after they left that I noticed it was gone. It absolutely made me ill. I don’t know how else to describe it. It just blows my mind that anyone would do anything like that.”

Within one hour of EastIdahoNews.com posting the story on April 22, strangers and community members began calling, stopping by the cafe and donating money to Rafferty.

“Oh my goodness. There has been a tremendous response from the public. I stopped counting when the donations reached $3,055,” Rafferty says. “People have donated through Venmo and others have shown up at the cafe and literally pressed cash into my hand. One gal stopped in and said, ‘I just want you to know that the people of Roberts aren’t like (the thief) and we’re very sorry that happened to you.'”

Rafferty says the biggest surprise came from Andersen Construction in Portland, Oregon – a company she had never heard of until a few weeks ago.

“Their Director of Corporate Philanthropy saw the East Idaho News story, called me and said they wanted to do something. They got two of their local contractors to come out for two days and complete a lot of the little finishing tasks like patching drywall, attaching rubber base floor trim, putting up racks on the wall, hauling out our garbage and installing our pass-through counter,” Rafferty says. “You can’t put a price tag on that. It was just such an amazing gift.”

Rafferty also heard from employees of Stitchin Around Quilts in Rigby, who sent money to have the windows professionally cleaned. There have been so many donations that it’s hard to keep track of them all, Rafferty says.

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Connie Rafferty with her friends and members of the Snake River Valley Quilt Guild. | Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com

The cafe owner is installing security cameras and hopes the thief is caught, but she’s not focused on that. Instead, she’s gearing up to open her restaurant on May 15. The night before, she will hold a thank you dinner for the volunteers who helped and on opening day, cookies will be passed out to those who stop by. Wild Rose Bakery Cafe will then be open Wednesday through Monday from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Rafferty hopes to eventually expand operations to 7 days a week.

“I am continually grateful for all of the support that I have received,” she says. “The positive wishes and the monetary support – it was certainly not expected but it is much appreciated. I hope to be able to do the same and pay it forward to other people in the community,” she says.

If you would like to donate to Rafferty, search Wild Rose Bakery Cafe LLC @BandanaGal on the business section of Venmo.

Our attorneys tell us we need to put this disclaimer in stories involving fundraisers: EastIdahoNews.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries.

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