Person of the Week
I cooked over sixty pounds of pasta. I walked out onto the front line and saw all these kids and I went, “Oh my gosh!” No wonder I’m cooking so much!” If someone is looking for a mission, it is important to find something that you take pride in.
1. What led you to the mission of working in food service?
When I first started out in high school, I worked at St. Joseph’s Institute for the Deaf. I worked as a house parent. We took care of the kids after school and helped them in the dorm. There were kids that lived there and were from out of state. It is a boarding school. From working there for many, many years, I went back to the farm and worked at a day care in Montgomery City. I worked there for about ten years.
I was looking for a different position because I was working with kids for a long time. I needed something different to help pay my bills. Working in the day care didn’t quite do that.
My sister was working in the city and I called to see if there were any jobs available there. I found out there was a job for a cook. I didn’t really want to come to the big city because I was used to the country. I grew up in the country. I’m still a country girl. You can take me out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of me! (Ruth pictured with her sister Marge Scheman.)
I came down and the person interviewing me said, “If you’ve ever cooked at home, forget anything you’ve ever learned. Here we do it in bigger batches.” Well, I found out the first day I did pasta and meat sauce. I cooked over sixty pounds of pasta. I was very stressed out. I was amazed how big the job was — just driving in showed me how big the building was.
The first day at lunch time, I walked out onto the front line and saw all these kids and I went, “Oh my gosh!” No wonder I’m cooking so much!” We served breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the dorms. The amount of food was so big!
I was one of the many cooks. I did a lot of stuff by recipes. A lot of the stuff I helped cook, I had never done at home. My mom had done all the cooking for a family of ten. We had “normal” food. Here they had a lot of stuff that I didn’t even know the names of. I went from that – basically helping cook – to doing the whole salad bar.
2. What does this mission mean to you?
I enjoy the work I’m doing. I think I enjoy it because I know I’m feeding the boys. We’ve heard compliments from parents who say their sons want to come here because of the food. It’s like, “We’re not sending you here for the food, son. We’re sending you here for the education.” They do get a good education, but just hearing things like that is rewarding.
They eat! We have parents that come in and volunteer their services to work. When I was in there helping them, I had parents telling me that their kids are such picky eaters. But their kids would come here and eat like it was going out of style! The food here is really good!
3. What was your best day working in food service?
That’s a tuffy! I know a few are when I get compliments from people. There are so many best days. I guess a good day or best day is when I got lots of birthday surprise wishes from people I didn’t even know knew it was my birthday. Because my sister works in the office and because we have been working here together a long time, she put out an email to all these people to let them know it was my birthday. It was kind of a personal thing, and maybe it’s a “me” thing, but I was surprised and it was a good surprise! I had people coming through on the breakfast line and handing me something saying, “Happy birthday.” I would say, “OK. How did you find out about this?” They would pretend and say, “I didn’t know anything about it!” It was such a good day!
4. What was your worst day working in food service?
My worst day was the day that I found out a woman got let go from where I was working. There was a new director and so people got moved around and let go.
Another day was when I went home from work. It was a sunny day, I got home, parked in the driveway and everything was fine. The next day I came back to work, looked at my car and somebody had run into my car. I was thinking, “Now when did this happen because it wasn’t there the night before when I pulled into my driveway at home?” There were no crashes and I didn’t get hit on my way home. I came back in and called the security officer. We have cameras around work. The officer went up to his office and looked at the camera. He didn’t see anything on that particular day.
The next day the security officer called and said he had my car on camera. We actually saw somebody pulled in the wrong way and down the wrong lane on the other side of the building. The driver realized he was going the wrong way and hurried up, pulled into a spot, and side swiped my car. That was all on camera.
The next day, people went around to see if they could find that kind of car and the paint color that was on my car. They found the car in the parking lot. That was a bad day for me because I thought, “Oh no. Now what do I do?”
That was a bad day – leaving here and not knowing that I had been hit. I had walked around the other side of the car and hadn’t noticed it. Then the next day, the way the sun was shining, I saw it and thought, “Oh my, someone ran into my car!”
They got hold of the person who ran into me and he had to come and apologize. I felt bad for him, but it was something that he needed to do. Someone came in and told me, “He will be down here to apologize to you. He knows he did wrong.” The person came into the kitchen after lunch, and he really sounded genuinely sorry for what he had done.
5. How did you survive your worst day?
What gets me through my worst day is people — friends. When the woman was let go, there was strong support from the faculty and staff that everything would be all right. They kept coming and saying, “It’s all going to work out. It’s all going to work out.” And of course later, another company came on board and the people here told them, “You have to hire this woman. She ran this office. She knows what she is doing.” The woman who had been let go was one of the first people hired when the new company came on board.
Over the years, after that happened, I remember those times when the faculty and staff came through and said, “Things are going to work out. Things are going to work out. Just hang in there. Hang in there!” The woman was hired back because of the strong support of the faculty and staff.
I came from such a large family and had a lot of siblings. My mom and dad taught us right from wrong. I got through the day of the car crash because it made me feel better knowing the fact that there was a genuine apology. I think that man really felt bad for what he did. I did say to him, “It’s OK. It’s OK.” I wasn’t really mad at him and it helped knowing that he learned something from it – especially since he was scared and took off after he hit the car.
I know a lot of people who are working just because they “have” to. They work for the money but they don’t take pride in their work. I shouldn’t judge, but this is what they do. I take pride in my work – no matter where I’m working. Pride makes me want to try and do better. When I take pride in my work, I feel good. I guess it’s because I know that when I do good, there are people who appreciate what I do. I have had people tell me that they appreciate what I do. The food service directors have actually told me they appreciate what I do. Getting positive feedback makes me feel good. If someone is looking for a mission, it is important to find something that you take pride in.