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This Waitress' Simple Act of Generosity Garnered Acclaim – And a New SUV From Ellen

Sarah Hoidahl, who works at Ruby Tuesday, is excited to have a new Hyundai Santa Fe.

Sarah Hoidahl takes delivery of her Hyundai Santa Fe that Ellen Degeneres bought for her on Feb. 6, 2014, at the Grappone dealership in Bow. Credit: Tony Schinella
Sarah Hoidahl takes delivery of her Hyundai Santa Fe that Ellen Degeneres bought for her on Feb. 6, 2014, at the Grappone dealership in Bow. Credit: Tony Schinella


By Tony Schinella/Patch

One never knows what will happen when performing a random act of kindness to others and one local waitress is continuing to find that out.

Sarah Hoidahl, a single mother from Henniker, New Hampshire made national headlines after buying lunch for two National Guardswomen during the government shutdown last year. On Feb. 6, Hoidahl took delivery of a new 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV that was purchased for her by comedian Ellen Degeneres.

The SUV was parked outside the Grappone Hyundai dealership as Hoidahl drove up with her mom to take delivery.

“Oh my goodness,” she exclaimed. “Look at the bow!”

It’s been a whirlwind for Hoidahl, who described the experience to be "like a dream.”

Back in October 2013, Hoidahl picked up the tab for two female soldiers with the New Hampshire National Guard when they came in to the Rudy Tuesday restaurant on Loudon Road in Concord to have lunch. Hoidahl wrote a note thanking them for their service. The guard later posted a picture of the note on its Facebook page, thanking the waitress for the lunch. 

Little did anyone know but Hoidahl only made $27 that day, the bulk of which was used to buy lunch for the women, meaning she went home, pretty much, empty-handed.

After the story made national news, comedian Ellen Degeneres flew Hoidahl out to California to thank her for being such “a good person” and proceeded to write her a check for $10,000.

“I always watch ‘Ellen’ and see people like that go on the show and get stuff,” she said, “but I never thought in a million years that I would be that person sitting on that couch … that was amazing.”

A month later, Degeneres surprised the waitress again. 

After hearing that Hoidahl and her mother were sharing a beat up car, trying to coordinate their schedules, as well as taking care of her baby, Degeneres sent a staffer to Concord, acting as a reporter, and surprised her with a new SUV.

Once again, Hoidahl was stunned, and couldn’t believe what was happening. A few months later, it all came true, with Hoidahl taking delivery of the Hyundai.

“It’s been a long wait for this car,” she said. “But I really can’t complain … it’s going to be nice … I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s going to be so wonderful.”

While waiting for her SUV to be prepped and paperwork to be processed, Amanda Grappone Osmer, one of the owners of the dealership, played banjo in the lobby and chatted with Hoidahl about her interaction with Degeneres. 

Hoidahl still works at Ruby Tuesday but only waits on tables about once a week. Most of the time, she is bartending, something she really enjoys.

“I like being more stationary,” Hoidahl said. “I get to make drinks, which is wicked fun … the clientele at the bar is very different … I like to talk, so I like the clientele at the bar. It’s easier to connect with people.”

After getting a walkthrough of the vehicle, Hoidahl gave a shout out to Degeneres.

"Thank you, Ellen," she said, laughing, still not believing it was all happening.

REPBEAR February 06, 2014 at 11:21 PM
Why is 10 miles news giving me news from thousands of miles away?? About to uninstsll!
tynsia allen February 07, 2014 at 12:05 AM
This isn't local news and no one cares. Better wake up Patch or you are going to lose your readers...
Char Russell February 07, 2014 at 12:12 AM
Agree with both comments
Craig Shipley February 07, 2014 at 07:02 AM
If you are tired of national news and sensationalist stories showing up in what is supposed to be your local Patch, see those two blue word bubbles below? Send them feedback and be sure to click "Not a fan".
Eric Deibler February 07, 2014 at 07:20 AM
I have to agree--the ONLY reason I read The Patch, and the ONLY reason I have it as a "Like" on Facebook, is to get local news for my town. I do not want to see someone else's local news!
Ryan February 07, 2014 at 08:24 AM
Please stop posting national stories on our local patch
Carolyn Brack-Jackson February 07, 2014 at 09:09 AM
I read the Libertyville Patch for the local news. Although I'm happy for the waitress, who sounds like a very kind person, this news is plastered all over the Huffingpost. Let local news stay local, please!
Tony Royer February 07, 2014 at 10:05 AM
If i wanted this kind of news, I would just go to the CNN website. Is there anyone left working for the Patch with at least one brain cell ?
Arielle Masters February 07, 2014 at 10:23 AM
Thanks for the pointer about clicking on the word balloons to send feedback. This is what I just sent them (adding that I am NOT a fan of the new way Patch works): "I only want LOCAL news in my LOCAL Patch. Like, Northern Virginia. Preferably, the actual Patch location + a 5-10 mile radius. Don't send me stuff about waitresses from somewhere hundreds or thousands of miles away. This is BS."
Lisbeth Allen February 07, 2014 at 11:40 AM
Maybe Patch is going to buy us all free cars!
Tony Schinella (Editor) February 07, 2014 at 11:45 AM
Hi everyone, thanks for the notes. I'm the local editor in Concord, NH, who produced this story. Just as an FYI, the new Trending Now on Patch section is a way of highlighting all of the interesting stories that are created by Patch staff with others around the country. The stories are posted in their own section inside the news section. As you already know, we're going through some changes at Patch in an effort to continue all the great things we were doing before in a sustainable way. We appreciate your patience as we shake things out a bit and learn what works with our readers and customers and what doesn't. In this case, it's a follow up story about a waitress who bought lunch for National Guardswomen during the government shutdown and was given an SUV by Ellen Degeneres. The story made national news previously which is why we're highlighting it now. Thanks again for reading!
chris February 10, 2014 at 12:57 AM
This has nothing to do with my hometown.
Lisa Lienhart February 22, 2014 at 06:53 AM
I would like to thank Tony for posting this story. I am reading this on my hometown Patch and it is nice to see something good in my hometown.

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