Northern Michigan in Focus: Wild Rose Cafe Captures the Spirit of the Season

Last year when we did a story on Elaine Sanford, who owns the Wild Rose Cafe in Big Rapids, she said she felt selfish for giving away Christmas dinner to over 40 seniors.

Why? Because it made her feel so good to give.

But this year it was a little bit of a struggle. Corey Adkins explains in this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

“This year has been kind of different because I have had to actually turn down a catering job because I had felt spent,” Elaine says. “And one of my customers said to me, ‘Elaine, maybe it’s time to slow down a little bit.”

Slow down may not be in Elaine Sanford’s vocabulary. She’s at it again doing something she calls selfish—giving.

“There are people out there that don’t have anyone at Christmas how I know one, they don’t have someone to make them a meal or say Merry Christmas or give them a hug,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to have to live that way, so I don’t want anyone else to either.”

And she’s doing this when she’s feeling down. It hasn’t been the best couple of weeks for her.

“I haven’t felt the greatest in the last two weeks, but it all comes to life this morning,” Elaine says. “God’s going to make me do it again. He’s here for me, I can feel it, and I know it’s going to be beautiful, that is my gift.”

And here’s the gift.

Volunteers, helpers and customers say she has an amazing heart.

“She is such a wonderful person she’s amazing the things she does was setting up this dinner,” a volunteer said.

“She’s got a good heart, I shall do anything for you, and she’s a real sweet lady,” a helper said.

“She’s nice and I’m happy that she put something on like this,” a customer says. “Some of the seniors don’t have anybody to go spend Christmas with. She’s got a big heart, beautiful heart.”

“It’s going and I love it,” Elaine says. “And they love the food, so that’s all that matters. It makes my heart happy for sure. Good turnout. I counted plates and I think I’m at 45 instead of 42, so I think we got a couple extra.”

All this takes a lot of work. Boy Scout Troop 114 helps.

Below the cash register is a sign of the hands of her grandkids. They are there helping too.

“I love seeing the people’s face when they get the food,” Elaine’s granddaughter said. “They love it every time. They’re grateful, they really are. She’s amazing. She has a big heart and she helps a lot of people but she gets a lot in return sometimes she gets a lot of love from all of us.”

“It’s never about money for me anymore,” Elaine says. “It isn’t, and that’s probably a good thing. I mean, you’re in business to make money but anymore I can actually say I’m comfortable because I can give back to the community more.”

A lesson Santa says we could all take to heart.

“We have to recognize that Elaine has been sick for the last couple of weeks with the flu but she still has pushed forward and she brought you your good meal this evening and I want everyone to say to her thank you and let’s give her a big Merry Christmas,” he said.

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus