LA CROSSE, Wis. - The lunch room is the place children go to refuel so they can focus on learning.
“I look at our nutritional department as a partner within the whole education system,” said Lyn Halvorson, the school nutrition supervisor for the School District of La Crosse. “Everybody has a role and they're equally as important, because we all have a task to do to get kids ready to learn.”
And behind every scoop of food is an employee working to provide the best nutrition for our kids.
“They find the work to be rewarding and they really like the role that they play,” said Halvorson. “But as life continues on, the clock never stops. We always have maybe one or two retirements every year.”
This year it's nutrition manager Shelly Abraham.
“I've been here a long time,” said Abraham.
“I haven't even stopped to think how many lives of students that she's touched,” said Halvorson.
These students in this lunchroom will be some of her last.
“I'm calling it quits,” said Abraham. “It's time for the young ones to have their chance.”
Shelly began her career in the district as a cook at Emerson Elementary.
“When I started the first day, I was like 'I don't know if this is for me,'" said Abraham.
But she quickly grew to love her job and spent 33 years working her way to her current position as nutrition manager of five south side elementary schools, as well as the summer school program.
“I was in the district in 1986 when we started that,” said Halvorson. “So, Shelly and I and another manager were the three people that really got that summer school program going.”
Currently, Abraham serves 60,000 meals to hungry kids every summer, and she's preparing to do it one last time.
“It is hard to let go,” said Abraham. “But it's time to let go.”
But what she doesn't have to let go of are the memories, like one of her favorites from 10 years ago at Spence Elementary.
“We had a little girl. She was third grade,” said Abraham. “I was talking to her, and before she left the room she pointed at me and she said 'I'm going to have your job one day.' I told her as soon as I'm done with it she could.”
Whomever takes over for Shelly, they will have some pretty big shoes to fill.
“She's such a fantastic source of knowledge,” said Kelly Schultz, the assistant nutrition manager for the La Crosse School District. “She's just so steady. She keeps us grounded.”
“Shelly's like a rock and an institution in this district,” said Halvorson. “And so, her leaving is going to leave a really big void in us. How we feel about her personally, and how the district is going to function.”
“It's nice, but nobody is irreplaceable,” said Abraham. “There's somebody else that's going to come up and do a fine job.”
Kind words that are meant to comfort a community as they say farewell to their humble leader.
Abraham’s last day of work will be Sept. 4th.
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