If heroes are measured by how much they give back to the college then staff members in Food Service are superheroes.
This spring, the PCC Foundation is building awareness of its annual Staff, Faculty and Retiree Giving Campaign to spur donations for student scholarships. The Foundation doesn’t have to try to build awareness with employees of PCC Food Service, they already give.
The department supports its own students by being the largest employer of student help in the district. It provides the facilities and instruction for students from the Culinary Assistants Program. But best of all, employees have donated more than $25,000 to its own scholarship fund to aid its student workers. The money comes from the tip jars near the cash registers at the dining halls across the district.
"The Food Service staff form bonds with their student employees and in some cases, maintain relationships that have lasted many years," said Linda Eden, director of auxiliary services. "The Food Service staff decided to contribute the gratuities to the Foundation as a means to support the educational pursuits of students as they try to improve their lives through education. It is wonderful to see the enthusiasm of our staff as they encourage students to apply for scholarship opportunities, along with the celebration of excitement as these students learn that they were successful in obtaining a scholarship from the Foundation."
Martinez moved to Portland from Fresno, Calif., last year with his girlfriend and daughter. After two days in town he enrolled at PCC and found work as a cashier and stockroom worker for the cafeteria. But he needed help to pay bills and a cook told him about the scholarships.
Josh Martinez, who works at the Rock Creek Campus cafeteria, is somebody who benefits from the tip jars. The second-year student was awarded a Food Service scholarship last fall thanks to the tips from customers at PCC’s dining halls. Martinez is using the money to finish his transfer degree to, "find out what I want to do," he said.
"It’s a big help," he said. "I didn’t expect to get it. It has freed up my financial aid money for bills. I think it’s beneficial because it makes it possible to go to school. If people didn’t give I’d have to stop school or cut back my classes to work more. This helps me go to school full time."
Rock Creek Food Service Supervisor Jean Atkinson, who oversees 11 staff and 20 student workers, said that the tip jars came about when customers would leave tips on the counters for workers. Because they aren’t allowed to accept tips, Atkinson said that the staff had to explain to people this rule each time a tip was offered. After much confusion, staff decided to do something about it in a positive way.
"People just kept leaving tips," Atkinson recalled. "Staff were in agreement at all of the campuses that we should give the money to the Foundation. Since we’ve done that the amount of tips has increased."
Plus, it gives PCC employees who may not have the means a way to contribute to the giving campaign.
"Not many of our employees are able to give to the Foundation," Atkinson said. "But through the tip jars they are able to give back."
Each year there are between seven to 10 students who are awarded $1,000 each from the fund. Besides setting the students up financially, the scholarships cultivate pride in their job and many keep coming back to see old friends – the staff – long after graduating.
One student, named Jason Bueckert, had dropped out of high school more than a decade ago. An international student from Canada, Buekert worked in Food Service for two years and received a scholarship as a result. He has transferred to Montreal to work on his bachelor’s degree in marine biology at Concordia University, but took the time to write a "thank you" letter.
"It is a wonderful program that you have with the Foundation," he wrote. "These scholarships are vital."
To become PCC’s next superhero, visit www.pcc.edu/superhero, or call (503) 977-4382.