The holiday season always includes family time, and sometimes extended family time when you work at a university where students can’t always make their way home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Just ask Joliet’s Diane Reed. A University of St. Francis (USF) contracted employee for 14 years, and an employee of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate for 16 years before that, Reed is a beloved and familiar face on campus among students and employees alike. Never a day goes by without a smile or an enthusiastic “hey there!” from Diane as she counts out someone’s change or fills the coffee tank with daily energy.
Reed’s job at the university is to nourish people. She works as a member of the Sodexo Food Service staff to provide daily meals to campus residents, employees and visitors.
During summers and at Thanksgiving time, Reed extends dinner invitations to students unable to make their way back to their hometowns over the class breaks due to athletic or work commitments.
“Usually 15 or 20 come at Thanksgiving– it all depends on who can’t go home,” said Reed, who was very shy about being interviewed. “I like to cook, but I am in LOVE with feeding people.”
And feed people she does. For the last six Thanksgivings, she not only served her own six living children (she notes that one is deceased, making seven), their spouses and their children, but also invites “holiday strays” from USF who need a family to celebrate with. The group grows to 40 or 50 people on most Thanksgivings. “I come from a big family, so the more the merrier,” said Reed.
This year, Reed’s cousin, Will, decided that the feeding frenzy should grow even greater. On Thanksgiving day, Reed with her family and close friends spent the entire morning delivering 300 home-cooked meals to area residents in need and nursing homes. They gave culinary “care packages” of turkey, ham, dressing, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, sweet potatoes and more– all prepared by Reed over the course of a week. Then in the late afternoon, the family rested and enjoyed their own Thanksgiving meal with USF students at Reed’s house.
As Christmas approaches, Reed is planning some family-only time. But come summertime and next Thanksgiving, Reed will again open her heart and her home– especially to USF students. “My home is their home… my dog is their dog,” she said with a giggle. “Whatever our students need, I am there for them.”
The University of St. Francis in Joliet serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in arts and science, business, education, nursing, health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit www.stfrancis.edu.
Julie Futterer, Director of Marketing Services
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