As her son approached the Dairy Queen parking lot to drop her off for work Wednesday morning, Julie Binning knew something was up when she was greeted with a crowd holding balloons and something else unusual for the restaurant’s front lawn — a shiny blue Toyota car.
Wednesday was already a special day for Binning, as it marked her 30th work anniversary at Dairy Queen, but the occasion was made even more special by Jorge Guevara, of Guesa USA, owner of Dairy Queen.
The idea was sparked when Binning never put her name on the list for Chiefs and Royals tickets purchased by Guesa for employees because her 1987 Grand Marquis wasn’t reliable enough to get her to Kansas City. Sometimes she had to ask for rides to work. Guevara worked with McCarthy Toyota to get Binning a car and the taxes and insurance will be covered for the first year.
“When somebody puts in that many hours, somebody needs to do something for that person in return,” Guevara said. “Her car was on its last leg. I followed Julie out of this parking lot, and before the stop light it probably died twice.”
“I was not going to be able to get another car for another two years, at least. I have to pay off my husband’s hospital bills first,” Binning said inside the restaurant as she fought back tears. “… It means the world, it really does. It’s amazing what a car is for a person.”
Binning said she was impressed with how her coworkers kept the secret from her this whole time when it dawned on her how they found out.
“Did you tell them Saturday when you put me on a banana chase?” Binning asked Guevara.
“I told you not to come,” he replied laughing. “And then she showed up to the meeting. … We had to get you out of here somehow.”
Binning’s son, Brad, has been in on the secret for about five weeks and helped keep it a secret along with the rest of the employees.
“It’s awesome, it’s a great gesture,” Brad said. “I think it really shows Jorge is showing loyalty in his company. There’s something to show for it for that much time and dedication, it’s really an amazing thing. “
He told his mom he needed to drive her to work Wednesday, something he doesn’t normally do, because Jorge wanted Brad to look over insurance paperwork for Binning. Brad said his mom began to piece things together once she spotted the balloons and the crowd of people gathered on the grassy area in front of the restaurant.
“She asked, ‘Did they buy me a car?’ And then she started crying,” he said. “She saw the balloons and then she saw the car and she started to put it together because things were out of the ordinary to begin with because I had to tell her I was taking her to work.”
Guevara described Binning, a shift leader who decorates cakes at Dairy Queen, as the “perfect employee.”
“Responsible, honest, punctual, a leader, an example,” he said of Binning. “And that was the main thing after all this — try to set an example for our youth and Julie is the perfect example for our youth.”
Amy Nichols, a fellow shift leader, agreed with Guevara, saying Binning is always looking out for others.
“She’s really funny, easy going. She gets along with everybody,” Nichols said. “She does anything for anybody. She’s always here on time and if someone needs help she’s willing to jump in. She genuinely cares about this place and everybody in it.”
“It’s just kind of amazing. (Jorge’s) a wonderful boss. I wish I could put another 30 years in for you; don’t think I’ll be able to though,” Binning told her boss with a laugh. “I’ve always enjoyed working here, obviously, because I didn’t leave. When I first was here, about 10 years, a friend of my family’s came by and they said, ‘How do you stay at Dairy Queen?’ And I said because every day I try and make the perfect banana split, and it kept me going for years just to prove I can make a perfect banana split.
“It’s worth it, you make more people smile and happy and help people out when they’re down,” she added. “I’ve done that many times, people come after their doctor’s appointments and you make them feel better.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.