Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic: Joanne VanHouten and Joan Halsted

Joan Halsted (left) and Joanne VanHouten

Over the next several weeks, Lapeer Community Schools will pay tribute to many of the Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic. These are the employees who have been singled out by their colleagues for going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure we could keep our schools open for face-to-face instruction. Each Unsung Hero will receive a gift certificate courtesy of our friends at Meijer in Lapeer.

So much of our attention during the pandemic has been focused on maintaining a high level of academic engagement for all students, especially during remote learning periods. There are, however, many other incredibly important facets of our overall operation that contribute to our ability to serve the academic needs of students. Things that, at a moment’s notice, had to adapt to a new reality.

Back in the spring, in one fell swoop, the District went from dine-in to drive-thru food service. It fell on Joanne VanHouten, Dining Services Director, and Joan Halsted, Assistant Director, to make it work.

“They were given one weekend to figure out how to feed the entire district while they were virtual,” one colleague said. “They gave countless hours of their time, redeploying staff and reorganizing kitchen equipment to make sure families that needed meals were able to get them. Each day they continue to lead by example, adapting to the never-ending changes while still remaining unwavering in their goal to provide the best for our families.”

Joanne and Joan had to transform CFI into a fully-functional, centralized kitchen. They gathered all the necessary supplies, moved refrigeration units and other equipment from all around the District to their new workspace. It was a Herculean effort.

“It was incredible to see this operation come together as quickly and efficiently as it did,” another colleague said. “Joanne and Joan, and their entire staff, deserve a lot of credit for helping to meet the needs of the community during a very difficult time for all of us. They didn’t just provide meals, either. The team had a collective purpose and made the experience simple and even enjoyable for our families.”

For the families who depend on the District for meals, their work was indispensable. It started out with a couple hundred meals for breakfast and a couple hundred more for lunch. At the height of the shutdown, our food service staff were pushing out up to16,000 meals per week.

Members of our Food Service staff last spring

This crew has always been “essential” to the operation of the District. During the Pandemic, the term took on a whole new meaning. It meant that they were on the frontline, risking exposure to COVID-19 in order to ensure all our families were well fed. Rain or shine, they were there.

Joanne and Joan would not accept this recognition without the acknowledgement of their team. They were there for our community when times were toughest, and for that we are truly grateful.

To Joanne, Joan and the entire Food Service Department, we say THANK YOU!

Bolt Blog

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