By CHRIS LaFORTUNE, Adventist Midwest Health
When people feel sick, food service employee Willie Harris understands food might be the last thing on their minds.
But to help them in their healing, and to bring a moment of happiness to their day, Harris works hard to make sure the food she’s serving to patients looks pretty and appetizing.
“If I can make it look good, I hope that will mean people will want to give it a taste, making their day just a little bit brighter,” Harris said.
The Summit resident, who has worked with Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital for 50 years, was among those honored at the Adventist Midwest Health Service Awards Banquet on April 23. Harris is the longest serving honoree this year.
Since joining the staff shortly before she turned 18, Harris has watched the hospital grow in size and in the number of people it treats. Through her work, Harris sees herself as a servant for God, helping people in their time of need. She believes everyone at the hospital plays that same role.
“When you work here, it makes you feel as if you are giving back to people, helping to make them feel better,” Harris said. “You never know what kind of news someone has had that morning, or what they are facing, so I do my best to give them a smile and to bring a smile to their faces, as well.”
Harris is the ideal employee, putting her entire heart and soul into her work, hospital Clinical Nutrition Manager Debbie Regnier said.
“She knows exactly what our vision is for the patients, and she strives to make it better,” Regnier said. “She is an inspiration for all our employees.”
Working in cold food prep and room service, Harris pays tremendous attention to detail, and that’s evident in the way her food is prepared. Her signature work is so apparent that Regnier can even tell when Harris has prepared a fruit cup for a patient’s meal.
“Every piece of fruit is placed individually, and it’s just beautiful,” Regnier said. “It’s hotel quality work, that’s how gorgeous it is.”
Long-serving employees such as Harris are an integral part of the hospital and help make it a vital community institution, said Lary Davis, the hospital’s chief executive officer.
“Willie’s passion and desire to care for the hospital’s patients sets an example for staff throughout the building,” Davis said. “We are extremely thankful for her 50 years of service to Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital.”
Three hundred and sixty-five employees were recognized during the 2014 Service Awards Banquet. While Harris was the organization’s longest serving employee honored, several others were recognized for having 40 years of service.