Tina West said she prefers to do her work in the shadows, avoiding the limelight as much as possible.
But it was hard to overlook her efforts during Hurricane Florence, and recently the manager of the South View High School cafeteria was honored by the local Red Cross at a meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Education.
West, who has been manager of the South View cafeteria for about eight years, was recognized for her volunteer efforts providing food to the evacuees who stayed in the shelter at South View during Hurricane Florence.
West and her family literally moved into a storage closet at the school for nearly a week, sleeping on air mattresses so she could be on-scene as much as possible to oversee the eating needs of the 317 people who called the South View gymnasium home for as many as nine days.
“Basically, we made sure they had at least two meals a day,’’ West said. She tried to make sure all the meals were hot and got an assist from cafeteria managers from neighboring schools.
There were some challenges. The gym was powered by a generator when the electricity went off, but there was a day when the generator went out.
West lost power to the freezer at the school and had to transfer food from there to the freezer at South View Middle School next door.
Once the generator came back on, she moved the food back to the high school.
Breakfast and lunch were the main meals she and her helpers served daily. With the help of donations, they were also able to serve dinner on occasion.
“We had one teacher who bought pizza for dinner,’’
West said. “A gentleman who runs a local body shop bought cheeseburgers and chicken sandwiches.’’
West also tried to interact with the evacuees, especially one group of elderly ladies, a couple of whom lost everything to the storm. “They just needed someone to talk to,’’ West said.
Chad Barbour, assistant principal at South View, said West’s performance during the storm came as no surprise.
“She does an excellent job,’’ he said. “She’s been named cafeteria manager of the year by the county.
“She does a lot of things she doesn’t seek credit for. She feeds a lot of children from getting food donations. She’ll send backpacks of food home and coordinates all this herself.’’
Barbour said he played a small role in South View’s Hurricane relief efforts and praised the school staff, including West, for the job it did.
“The hours were difficult on the folks,’’ he said. “Our custodial and cafeteria staff stepped up, took charge and ran it. Our school resource officer played a big role in providing security and things like that.
“It’s leadership philosophy. Get the right people, put them in the right place, and get out of their way.’’
Photo: Tina West