ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- As the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office continues to search for missing St. Augustine waitress Barbara Parchem, the community has begun its own efforts.
"It's like losing a part of the family."
Nicole Snyder gently strokes her mother, Marie Santoriello's arm as they both smile faintly at Parchem's now-empty section at the Village Inn.
"It's too close to home. It's unbelievable," said Santoriello.
The pair struggles to hold back tears as they talk about Parchem, or as she's better known in the restaurant, "Lil' Barb."
"She's watched my daughter grow up and she's been there," said Santoriello sadly.
"She's given her presents. She got married and she was invited to the wedding, and when she found out she was pregnant and she said, 'Oh good, I'm going to be a grandma again!'"
But Saturday morning when Parchem didn't show up to work for the first time in 20 years, her co-workers say they knew immediately something was wrong.
"The manager called me up that morning and said that Barb didn't arrive at work, and I knew something was up because she's always here early," explains co-worker Mary Lou Welch.
"She's here and hour earlier than when she's supposed to be. I come in at ten till five, she comes in at ten till four," said employee Benjamin Wright.
"The manager went out to her house and she wasn't there and that's the last I heard," Welch said.
But that wasn't the end of the search. Restaurant manager Matt Gleason said more than 200 volunteers passed out or posted nearly 1,500 flyers and posters from Crescent Beach to near Jacksonville International Airport.
"She's been serving us since my kids were little; she remembers them in the crayon stage."
Carol Godwin was one of those volunteers. She said Parchem has been like a part of her family for more than a decade.
"She would make goodies for them," she says.
"I have a tin in my car to return to her from stuff she made for Easter -- fudge and cookies -- that I was trying to get back to her."
Which is something she'll just have to wait to do, until "Lil' Barb" comes back home.
There is a $500 reward to anyone with information leading to Parchem's whereabouts.
To provide information, call the sheriff's office at 1-888- 277-TIPS.
First Coast News