Beyond Sodexo — workers open up about personal lives

Students see them every day — passing their IDs, grabbing a mint from the bowl on the counter near where they sit.

Often we don’t think about them outside the dining hall, but Sodexo workers are a lot more than just familiar faces in blue and red aprons and hats, passing out chicken bowls.

More than likely if you have dined in Centennial Hall, you have met 63-year-old George Walker, who has worked as the cashier of Centennial’s dining hall for 25 years with a smile on his face.

Walker was born and lived in Kirksville until he was 7 years old. He then moved with his mom to New York City where he grew up and graduated high school. After requests from his grandmother, he and his mother moved back to Kirksville in the mid 70s where he has lived since.

While spending his time in Kirksville, Walker has enjoyed reading many different genres of books and watching movies such as Star wars and Star Trek.

“I love to read,” Walker said. “I really like science fiction and fantasy like Isaac Asimov. I love Star Trek, and I watched the new Star Trek Discovery that just came on this fall. And Star Wars, I played Star Wars galaxies when it was online about 10 years ago.”

Walker said he used to play Dungeons & Dragons with a group in Kirksville for a many years and used to drive to renaissance fairs.

“I love going to renaissance fairs,” Walker said. “I’ve been to the one out there in the Kansas City area, and I’ve been to that one many times. I remember one year me and a friend went to several Renaissance Fairs in the area of St. Louis and all the way in Southern Kansas.”

Walker said he used to volunteer at the animal shelter after he got his first dog. He would clean cages and do whatever was needed from him. Currently he has a cat named Molly and a dog named Bailey.

Walker said his favorite part of working as a cashier was getting to see and meet the different people that he greeted.

Walker is one of many notable Sodexo workers. There’s also 52-year-old Donna Dodd who can be found working at the Student Union Building, greeting and helping people with purchases as a cashier at the front of the market area.

Originally from Mexico, Missouri, Dodd moved to Kirksville almost a year ago in order to help her daughter who was pregnant at the time. Now, she stays and works at the SUB while enjoying her time with her new grandson, Raiden, who will soon be 6 months old. She describes Raiden as the light in her life.

In addition to her new grandson, Dodd also has loved animals.

“I’ve always wanted to work with animals,” Dodd said. “I took one semester to become a veterinarian technician, but then I dropped out after my husband was killed in a car accident because I just … I just couldn’t think.”

Dodd said she has several interests like wrestling, hiking and camping. She said she was able to go to a Wrestlemania show two years ago as a gift from her kids.

Dodd said she is planning on moving to Moberly in the summer and begin looking for different employment. She said she will always try to be positive and that she can get along with anyone. Dodd said the best part of working as a cashier at the SUB was the people because of how friendly everyone was.

Sodexo workers are not limited to Kirksville citizens but oftentimes are students looking to make extra money. This includes international student Kalyani Pande who has been working at Dobson Hall’s convenience store for two years.

Pande said she has a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and is attending Truman to receive her master’s degree.

“I’m graduating, so I can like give a going away speech kind of thing,” Pande said. “I think it was fun and I really enjoyed coming here for two years. Everyone was really helping me, even my peers and Sodexo. There’s not even one day that I feel like I don’t want to go to work.”

Pande said she has many student interests like reading books, listening to music or just watching movies on Netflix.

Pande said she has  family waiting for her back home — A younger brother and a loving mother and father. She said said the things she misses the most are the food and her family.

Pande said she received her bachelor’s in India at the Alie Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped in Mumbai. She said she wanted to work as a speech therapist because her grandfather had a stroke and one of her classmates had problems speaking. She said her spark of interest began in the field after her uncle who is a doctor suggested it to her.

“I want to go back to my country and then serve them,” Pande said. “I want to learn everything I possibly can here, and then help the people there.”