Service with Smiles, and Maybe a Hug or Two


 
Lennie Sweeny, top, and Maureen Tosto, left, have worked for Wesleyan’s Campus Dining Services for more than 35 years combined. Sweeny works as a cook in Summerfields and Tosto is a cashier at the Davenport Campus Center.
 
Posted 11/16/05
Q: What is your job title?

Lennie Sweeny (LS): Second cook. I do the prep work for the first cooks. They’re the ones who are in charge of everything. You could call me the soup lady, because I make all the soups and chili.

Maureen Tosto (MT): I’m a cashier.

Q: How many years have you worked in food services?

LS: I’ve been working for Wesleyan for 20 years. Seventeen of those years I worked at the Campus Center as a cashier and in salad, deli and beverage stock. I’ve been here in Summerfields for the past three years.

MT: I came here in 1984, but I left because I was pregnant. I came back in 1989. I’m a cashier now in the Campus Center, but I’ve done everything here. I’ve been in beverage stock, and I worked at Summerfields briefly as a line server.

Q: What are your job duties?

LS: My job first and foremost is to make the soup, and then I help prep other foods. I make two soups a day. The most popular soup is my clam chowder. I cook it with bacon bits and put my heart into it. We’ll go through four pots of that, and only one pot of tomato soup. Students love the cream soups. Yesterday we had a cream soup and by 12 noon there was no more, period.

MT: I monitor the students’ meal points on their cards and let them know if they’re low. Some of them pay cash. At lunchtime it’s bang, bang, bang.

Q: What hours do you typically work?

LS: I work 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 6 to 11 a.m. Friday.

MT: I work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. I love those hours.

Q: Is working in food service stressful?

LS: Not here in Summerfields. Absolutely not. We all get along and work together to get the job done. No one says, “That’s not my job.” Charlie Moorehead is our boss and we love him and he loves us.

MT: No, I thrive on this.

Q: What is the best part about working in dining services?

LS: I like the atmosphere of the job here. I like how we’re all so close.

MT: I love the students. I still get emails from some of them who wanted to stay in contact. I love that I have a birds-eye view of every thing that goes on in here. Always something interesting to look at.

Q: What is your interaction with the students?

LS: I am always in the kitchen. When I worked at the Campus Center, the students were the best part of the job. I’d give at least 500 hugs a day and tell them everything is going to be OK during their exams. These kids are away from home and not seeing their moms and they all can use a hug. Hugs are good for the soul.

MT: I’m constantly working with the students. I like to give them a question of the day, sort of like a David Letterman poll. Last week I was asking, “Did you get a flu shot?” We have some interesting conversations.

Q: How many students are served in the Campus Center a day?

MT: When Lennie worked here, we had about 900 go through the line a day. But now things are more spread out on campus so that number has dwindled.

Q: Do you eat meals prepared in Summerfields and Campus Center?

LS: Usually I don’t have time. I rather make it than eat it. But I am here to make the best food I can possibly make. If I won’t eat it, then you’re not going to eat it.

MT: Sometimes I’ll go upstairs to Stephanie’s and have organic food. I love beets. I also drink a lot of Starbucks Doubleshots. Have you ever had one? I usually have four of them a day.

Q: What are your favorite foods?

MT: I like seafood. I love shrimp.

LS: Of all the soups I make, my personal favorite is the chicken stew. Breakfast is my favorite meal to make.

Q: Do you cook at home?

MT: I love to cook. I cook like I’m Italian even though I’m Irish. Every Sunday I make two or three big dinners like roast beef or sausage and peppers and they last us throughout the week.

LS: I don’t. I spend enough time doing that here.

Q: Do you have families?

LS: I have two boys, Arnie, who is 24, and Randall, who is 22. Randall works at McConaughy Dining Hall. Everyone calls him “Oogie.” I also have a granddaughter named Amara. She’s 3, and we spend lots of time playing with Elmo and going to Chuck E. Cheese and the park. We all live here in Middletown.

MT: I have three girls. Melissa is 27 and she is a second grade teacher in Middletown. I’m going to repay her student loans the rest of my life. My daughter Katie turned 21 last week and she had a big party with 300 guests, but I pulled through. Amy is my youngest. She is 19. We also live in Middletown.

Q: How far back do you two go?

MT: We go way back, some 20-something years. Her boys used to come over and play Atari, and that’s just when it came out.

Q: Tell me about your hobbies and interests outside of work.

LS: I like to support people. If I wake up and I am alive, I think, ‘I was given a chance to do something today’ and how dare we complain about anything. I like to give hugs and help others. I’m always willing to help people who are struggling. That is my hobby.

MT: I stay home on Friday nights and wait for my girls to come home safely.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor