DETROIT (WWJ) – Employees and students at the University of Detroit Mercy are rallying around a cafeteria employee who’s undergoing cancer treatment.

Working as a cashier on the food service line for 14 years, Birdie Gardner-Owens has become somewhat of a legend at UDM.

“She remembers everything, so, she remembers that I had three children here, and where’s your other son? And where’s this; where’s that? Her memory of people is wonderful,” said Emilie Wetherington, Director of Academic services, who has organized an online fundraiser.

When the school community discovered Birdie had bone cancer, support began pouring in.

Wetherington said many have expressed their admiration, posting messages online.

“For example, foreign students who said ‘I came to the university not knowing anyone and you greeted me as if you knew me. And it was the most special thing and I’ll never forget that,'” Wetherington said.  “I mean, when you can touch somebody’s life — just with a greeting or with your attitude — that’s a really powerful thing.”

“She just brightens up everyone’s day whenever she comes in to work. And it’s hard to believe that someone could be that positive every day — but that’s how she is,” Wetherington said.

Birdie began chemotherapy last week and will not be able to return to work.

The fundraiser’s description reads: “While Birdie is rich in spirit and love, she is not a rich woman and will no doubt struggle even more now that she will not be able to work. We love Birdie. We want her to be healthy, happy, and safe in her home.  If she has touched your life like she has touched ours, show her your love by giving what you can. Anything will help. She needs us now. It is time to show Birdie that she is loved and that she matters to all of us!”

She told WWJ’s Marie Osborne she’s been overwhelmed by the support.

“I would have never, never thought of that … I would have not even dreamed it. Because most of the kids I’d have thought probably forgot me by now,” she said.

For more information and to find out how you can help, visit this link.


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