SNF 2016 School Nutrition Hero Spotlight: Sandra Hearn, Cafeteria Manager, Vicksburg Warren School District, Mississippi

“We all have heroes that walk among us every day, and Sandy is one of those heroes.”

When Vicksburg Warren School District’s Director of Child Nutrition Laura Bounds learned about the School Nutrition Hero Award one person immediately came to mind as the perfect nominee—cafeteria manager Sandy Hearn. Having been in and around the school nutrition profession since the age of five—Laura’s mother was very active in the Mississippi chapter of SNA—Bounds knows what it takes to be an effective manager, but says that Sandy is much more than just an excellent employee. Along with Sylvia Cullen, Child Nutrition Manager at Warren Central High, Bounds submitted Sandy’s name for consideration for 2016 School Nutrition Hero because she goes far above and beyond her daily duties as cafeteria manager.

“When I worked in the restaurant business I had a manager that used to say, ‘You have to have a servant’s heart’ and I think Sandy must have four or five of them,” said Laura. “She is one of those silent heroes who walks among us each and every day. She’s so down-to-earth, loving, and understanding, and you’d never know what she’s accomplished—she’s not going to sit there and brag about it.”

SandyHearn_DSC_0411Sandy has worked for Vicksburg Warren schools for 24 years, and currently serves as cafeteria manager at Vicksburg Warren High School. Sandy’s efforts to serve children extend far beyond her work in the cafeteria; she is a long-time volunteer and advocate for special needs children. In addition to her more than sixteen years as a coach/cheerleader for Special Olympics in Area 10, Sandy serves on the board for Jacob’s Ladder Learning Center, a private school where special needs students learn life skills, and she started a nutritional feeding program for the mentally and physically challenged children who attend Camp Silver Cloud. Further, Sandy worked with her school’s Special Education Program to create a training program for special needs students to prepare them for jobs after graduation; a graduate of that program now works in Sandy’s cafeteria. Hearn has received the Lucy Young Outstanding Service Award in recognition of her work with special needs kids, whom she calls, ‘my little angels from God’.

“I get so much back from my work with special needs kids,” Sandy told us by phone. “The little things we take for granted are huge achievements for them—and they are, really, big achievements. When I coach softball and [a child] hits the ball and it falls right in front of the plate—that’s a home run to them, but you or I probably wouldn’t even run! That excitement, and the love these kids have, means everything.”

Sandy entered the school nutrition profession almost twenty-five years ago. Recently widowed after losing her husband in an accident, Sandy needed a job that would allow her to care for her young child and working in a fast food restaurant was no longer an option.

“My child needed me,” said Sandy. “I was an assistant manager of a fast food restaurant, and of course managers work at night but my daughter needed me. The school district is where I wanted to be; when she was home, I was home, and when she was off, I was off. I started as an assistant and within four years I became a manager.”

This week Sandy and Laura will travel to Washington, D.C., to attend the 2016 Celebration of School Nutrition Heroes, and it also marks the very first Legislative Action Conference ever for Sandy–and she couldn’t be more excited and grateful for the opportunity. Her one concern? Securing the proper outerwear for a trip to the East Coast in February.

“I’m looking forward to everything—it’s all going to be new to me, and I’m always up for a challenge,” laughed Sandy. “Anything new I am willing to learn. I don’t know that I own a warm enough coat—we wear jackets here in the South!—so I’m going to ask some ladies at my church if I can borrow one.”

As for Laura, she looks forward to showing Sandy the ropes in D.C., and being there to see Sandy accept her award at the celebration on Monday, February 29.

“Sandy is a role model for the entire state,” said Laura. “I can’t say enough about her. She is a wonderful person, and I am blessed to have her as one of my managers. She’s always there if somebody needs something. She deserves this award and more.”

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