When Angie Peterson, a waitress at the Westside Cafe in Brainerd, delivered her baby girl three months early her coworkers and restaurant patrons were concerned.
Peterson's daughter, Madison, was born May 18 at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, weighing only 1 pound, 11 ounces.
Her coworkers taped a photograph of tiny Madison, shown attached to lifesaving machines, on a white bucket and placed it on the front counter of the cafe, hoping to raise a little money to help Peterson with gas money for her frequent trips to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis to visit her daughter.
But last weekend, either late June 15 or in the early morning hours of June 16, someone broke into the Westside Cafe by breaking the glass on the front door and gaining access to the cafe. There was no money from cafe receipts for them to steal, since money is not kept there overnight.
The only thing stolen from the cafe was the money in the collection bucket meant for Peterson and her baby. It is unknown how much money was stolen from the bucket.
It may not have been much money, but the idea that someone would steal money intended for a single parent and her premature infant angered Peterson's coworkers and the cafe's regular patrons, many of whom have been coming to the restaurant for years.
"We'd like to catch 'em," said Bill Olson, a frequent visitor to the cafe. "We'd like to talk to 'em."
Peterson, who has been nicknamed "The Rookie" by her customers since she started working there 1 1/2 years ago, hasn't been able to work since April, when she was forced to go on bed rest as a result of complications during her pregnancy with Madison. She hadn't been prepared for Madison's early birth and financially wasn't able to afford things for the baby because she had to quit working. Coworkers and Westside regulars have given her a few baby clothes and other items. She does have a bassinet waiting for Madison when the baby is finally able to come home either in late July or early August.
Peterson, 24, has tried to spend as much time as she can with her baby, staying with her brother in the Twin Cities. She brings new photos of Madison into the cafe as often as she has them, since Westside regulars often ask about her and the baby. Madison is slowly growing and gaining weight. She had a blood infection at birth that required four blood transfusions. She now weighs 2 pounds, 7 ounces, said Peterson.
"It's a topic around here," said Lela Kotland. "We keep people up to date. They ask about her all the time. Everyone is just waiting to see the baby."
Kotland said the recent burglary meant more customers seem to be putting more money in the collection bucket for Peterson because they felt badly that someone stole the money.
Peterson started working again at the cafe Friday. She said she appreciates what people there have done for her.
"I was excited to come back and see everybody," said Peterson. "The nicest people come here."
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