Community raises money for Lou’s waitress after cancer diagnosis
Becky Schneider, who has worked at Lou's since 1978, was recently diagnosed with cancer.
When longtime Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery waitress Becky Schneider was diagnosed with stage 3B lung cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes last month, the Dartmouth, Hanover and wider Upper Valley community quickly sprang to action. An online fundraiser started on Schneider’s behalf has raised over $50,000 for her living expenses as of Saturday.
Sarah Schneider, Becky Schneider’s daughter, organized the GoFundMe page on Nov. 17 to support her mother while she remains out of work from Lou’s. Becky Schneider, who is 59, has worked at the popular diner for over 40 years.
Soon after the GoFundMe began circulating online, support and donations for Schneider started to pour in. Since the creation of the GoFundMe, almost 900 donors have collectively donated more than five times the initial target of $10,000.
“I was stunned. I was expecting to get donations and everything, but I was not expecting it to take off the way that it did at all,” Sarah Schneider said. “… When the first night it reached $10,000, I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ And then the next day I woke up and it was $20,000, and then the next day it was $30,000, and before I knew it, it was like $50,000.”
Becky Schneider said the money would go toward living costs including school clothes for her grandchildren, rent, utilities, food and other necessities. She added that she has been out of work since Oct. 8.
According to Sarah Schneider, her mother had already been struggling with a respiratory disease since March, causing her to work reduced hours and take some time off before beginning cancer treatment in late November. She hopes to eventually return to Lou’s full time.
On the GoFundMe page, Sarah Schneider wrote that her mother is “the glue” of their family. She added in an interview that as a single mother, Becky Schneider raised her and her sister, and she is now raising two grandchildren.
For the past 17 years, Sarah Schneider has worked as a waitress at Lou’s alongside her mother, starting when she was a teenager. She recalled feeling slightly “jealous” of the relationship between her mother and her customers when she was younger, but as she grew older, she realized how much she appreciates working with her mother.
“I’ve been watching her with her customers and the way that they adore her,” Sarah Schneider said. “… I’ll look at her and she’s at a table, and every single person is just looking up at her, smiling, totally into what she’s saying.”
Becky Schneider noted her long-standing connection with the Dartmouth community, recalling memories of attending Dartmouth fraternity parties as a young adult, as well as enjoying special events such as the annual Homecoming celebration.
Schneider said that as she got older, certain Dartmouth students who frequented the restaurant began to regularly ask her for advice, and some alumni even began to stop in to say hello after they graduated, even if they were not sitting down for a meal.
“I’ve waited on generations of Dartmouth students. I waited on kids in the ’70s and ’80s, and now I’m waiting on their children, and they come back, and it just feels like family,” Schneider said.
She added that she always kept a “cheat sheet” hanging in a corner of the restaurant to help herself keep track of her favorite customers.
Lou’s owner and CEO Jarett Berke Tu’17 described Schneider as “caring” and “just a great person.” He added that she is a “peacekeeper” around her coworkers and is friends with everybody.
“She brings out the best in other people,” he said.
Al Johnson ’15, who got engaged to her fiance Noah Reichblum ’15 at Lou’s in October 2019, recalled Schneider’s excellent memory. When Johnson walked into the restaurant the day of the engagement, she said that Schneider recognized her as the girl that always ordered a Diet Coke with breakfast.
“I so distinctly remember that [Schneider] in particular — who is in some of our engagement photos — was just so genuinely overjoyed for us, and so thrilled that Lou’s was a meaningful place for us,” she said. “… I was just so touched by her enthusiasm for us.”
Johnson said that she has been touched to see how people have come together to help Schneider.
“To see this person who, in a small way, played such a big role in a lot of people’s lives and was such a main figure in the Dartmouth community, and how the whole community just rallied behind her — I thought it was so special and such a testament to why Dartmouth is such a great place,” she said.
Schneider expressed gratitude to everyone who has donated or shared words of encouragement.
“I could have had different career choices, and I felt for so many years like I was doing wrong by waitressing, but I couldn’t stop,” Schneider said. “I love my job. I left a couple times … and I just missed it so desperately.”
She explained that the outpouring of support has affirmed that she has done “the right thing” with her life and that her choices “did have an impact.”
“I feel so blessed and grateful and loved, and what else can someone expect from a career choice?” Schneider said.
Correction appended (Dec. 7, 2020): A previous version of this article stated that the money raised through the GoFundMe fundraiser will be spent on medical bills in addition to living expenses. According to Becky Schneider, the money will be spent on clothing for her grandchildren, rent, utilities and food, as well as the occasional medical copay should the need arise. The article and headline have been updated to reflect this clarification.