Monday, September 22, 2014

Changing lives through service

Pat Nash and Karen Mooney have become like adoptive moms to Liberty students through serving them

More than an hour before students and faculty file into DeMoss Hall for the earliest class at Liberty University, two women are already at work setting up the Simply to Go station that has become a mainstay for hundreds of people needing a quick snack or meal.

These women are Pat Nash and Karen Mooney, who have worked at the a la carte food location for approximately four and seven years, respectively.

early — The women of Simply to Go begin the day before 7 a.m., long before students begin to arrive at DeMoss Hall for classes. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Early — The women of Simply to Go begin the day before 7 a.m., long before students begin to arrive at DeMoss Hall for classes. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Although the job may seem simple to those who pass by the retail food option, there is more to it than just swiping Flames passes as students, faculty and staff purchase their drinks and snacks.

According to Mooney, the two begin setting up the station well before 7 a.m., when Simply to Go opens. In addition to stocking refrigerators with items such as sodas, sandwiches and parfaits, Nash and Mooney must roll out all other carts containing chips and sweets as well.

Between the rushes of students, Nash and Mooney make sure each of the refrigerators and cases are fully stocked to ensure those who pass through their line have a variety of options.
“Our first, main responsibility is to keep the students happy,” Nash said.

During the 20-minute breaks between classes, the line lengthens significantly, often extending into the back hallway of DeMoss.

Although it would be easy for the two women to be overwhelmed by the long lines that form more than five times a day, Mooney said the two are still focused on calmly serving the students rather than just moving people quickly.

“You’ve gotta focus on the person that’s in front of you first,” Mooney said. “… You’ve gotta take time for each student that’ll come through the line to you.”

Junior Anna Treese said she appreciates the way the women face the stressful times that students consider their break.

“(A) lot of times, when places are really busy, employees can get frustrated and be kind of rude, but both of them are … always really nice and very professional,” Treese said. “They get people served as soon as possible. They’re really fast. I just think they’re really wonderful.”

But according to Nash, the Simply to Go job extends well beyond just providing food.

“I guess we’re like moms away from home,” Nash said. “You get to know them, like they’re your children.”

Mooney also said she considers Liberty students to be her adopted children.

“The students, they are my little babies,” Mooney said. “… I love my students. I have some of them call me Momma. So I say, ‘OK, I’ll be Momma Karen to y’all.’ I’m like, ‘I’ll be your momma as long as you’re here.’”

According to Nash, the mom title carries with it the responsibility of helping students in whatever way they need.

“We do whatever we can to help them,” Nash said. “We tell them when they come through, ‘If you need us, you know where we’re at.’”

And just as mothers do, Nash and Mooney are willing to provide students with even the smallest of necessities.

“Sometimes they … just want somebody to show them that they care,” Mooney said. “… If they need a Band-Aid, I’ll be the first to give them a Band-Aid, or make sure they’re OK.”

Other times, however, the adoptive mothers take the role of comforters or encouragers, offering uplifting words to students who may be hurting or sad and praying with others in the midst of both their struggles and happiness. Nash and Mooney both said they believe that God has placed them and used them to minister to students.

“I think this is where God wants me to be,” Nash said. “I’ve been out in the business part of the world, and this is a whole lot better. I guess this is God letting us witness this way. You never know which child you’re gonna have an impact on.”

While both struggled to come up with a worst part of their job, with Nash citing only the long walk to and from her car and Mooney saying there is no bad part of her job, the two were quick to emphasize the best part of their positions.

“The students are the best part of the job,” Mooney said, echoing Nash’s words almost exactly. “I just hope they realize that we really do work hard for them, and I love them. … I miss them when I’m not with them.”

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