Two seasoned Sodexo workers shine


Mary-Lynn Retassie

Sodexo worker Helen Ferrante stands, ready with a smile, to swipe students into the Student Union dining hall.

Lucy Li, Staff Writter

Standing at the dining hall entrance doors, greeting people with a big smile while taking their IDs, is Helen Ferrante.

Meanwhile, in the same building, Linda McCleester is busy making egg-and-cheese bagels, or cheeseburgers, depending on what time of the day it is. The queue is becoming longer, but people never have to wait long.

Both women are part of a Pitt-Johnstown student’s everyday life. Through decades of hard work and sincerity, they have developed a reputation among students.

Ferrante has been working at Sodexo for 17 years, she said.

“I love (my job),” she said. “I love the kids. They are all good students.

“I always greet them. If they’re not feeling good, I ask them how they feel. And, if they need anything, I always help them get it,” Ferrante said.

“(The students) love me, I’m the first (person) they see in the morning and at night.”

One student, junior Abigail Becker, who just finished eating, said she agreed.

“I love her, she’s so nice. She recognizes us whenever we’re at Walmart or something,” Becker said.

Ferrante said she has been awarded Employee of the Year seven times in a row.

“I told (the students) it’s not fair because everyone else works so hard, too,” she said.

Ferrante said she also pays attention to different student groups.

“I don’t know if they left or moved out, but I love the international students, too. They talk to me a lot.

“(They are) always smiling, (they) say hello to me, some even call me by my name,” said Ferrante.

“(The students) are why I love my job so much,” she said.

“(This is) my home away from home.”

Ferrante isn’t the only Sodexo employee who is popular among students. McCleester, who works behind the counter of Grill 155 in the Tuck Shop, is also well-liked.

Junior student Qu Bohan said that he thinks McCleester is the most popular among Tuck Shop employees.

“(McCleester) is super efficient. (Grill 155) always has the longest line, but, if (McCleester) is there, the line moves the fastest.

“Some people come every day, and she remembers their faces and their orders,” he said.

Not only is McCleester popular among students, she also has a reputation among her coworkers.

Frances Connor, one of the Tuck Shop cashiers, said McCleester is one of their best workers.

“She is very smart and a very hard worker.

“She makes terrific food and people always line up for her breakfast.”

Not only does Connor think that McCleester is a great worker, she said that she is also an amazing grandparent.

“She is like the parent of her grandson. She cooks food for him every day, and he gets all A’s in his classes.

“She is just a wonderful person,” said Connor.

McCleester has been working at Pitt-Johnstown longer than Ferrante. She said she has been working the same job for 23 years.

Like Ferrante, McCleester also said she loves her job and the students.

“I love (the students), I treat them like my children. I ask about them all the time,” she said.

McCleester said the reason she is able to remember so many students’ orders is because she cannot hear very well, so she associates their faces with their orders to be more efficient.

Dannette Ickes, the Tuck Shop retail manager, who also works with McCleester, agrees that she is efficient.

“She prepares in the morning to get through the rush hours.

“(During rush hours), the line could get very long, so it’s important to be fast, efficient and friendly,” she said.

“It’s all about customer service.”

McCleester said she thinks she’s popular among students because she is fast, but Ickes disagrees.

“(I think) it’s because she loves her job, and she loves the kids,” Ickes said.