A regular customer at a Washington state diner that closed, leaving a dozen employees out of work, has led a fundraiser that collected nearly $17,000 to help them out.

Glenn Ludwig launched the "Grinch fund" after learning the 12 workers at his favorite restaurant _ America's Diner in Aberdeen _ were left jobless and without a paycheck since before Thanksgiving.

Ludwig's goal was to raise enough money to cover $16,000 in back wages owed to the employees by the owner.

KXRO-AM reports Ludwig collected nearly $17,000, and that $13,700 of it was collected Wednesday in front of the former diner on Heron Street.

Ludwig says some of the excess money will be used to help a diner employee who was fired for reporting the owner to the state Labor and Industries Department after the owner failed to pay workers.

Any other leftover money will be donated to a local charity.