Ashley Matthews
Ashley Matthews

VAN WERT – It’s been a year and a half since Van Wert senior Ashley Matthews started working at Vancrest as a food server in the cafeteria. During that time, Matthews has learned how to set up the tables for meals, prepare side dishes such as fruit and vegetables and prepare snacks for home residents.

During that time, Matthews has also been heavily involved in the school organization, Family Career and Community Leaders of America, a student-led organization.

These days, in her senior year, Matthews is starting realize how a combination of the two involvements is starting to chart a course that is helping her to become career-oriented. The Van Wert senior is starting to think in terms of getting a degree in some type of food health career that could lead her into teaching health and proper eating habits.

“In all of this I am seeing how important proper eating is to our health,” said Matthews. “In the nursing home, I enjoy seeing the continued good health of those residents that are eating properly. I am realizing more and more all of the time how important proper eating habits are.”

Matthews has also come to appreciate the joy of giving through the Community Leaders organization. Projects she has been involved with over the past few years have included making and distributing blankets for an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., making cupcakes for the Fall Fright Fest and preparing breakfast for students at the Cougar Café on Thursday mornings. That treat consists of cinnamon rolls, coffee and hot chocolate.

Matthews said she appreciates what she has learned about good health habits and communication skills that have drawn her closer to her family members.

“I’ve worked here since March of 2016,” said Matthews. “My primary responsibility has been with the assisted portion of the dietary section.

“Second shift dietary aid involves setting up the dining room, serving the dining room, snacks before and after the meal, taking them snacks when they call for them and cleaning up after the meal,” continued Matthews.

Matthews termed her work as, “real easy,” adding that it is far better than working at a fast food restaurant.

“One of the things I enjoy the most is getting to know the residents on a first name basis and visiting with them,” noted Matthews. “I know that many of them like to play the ‘grandparent role’ with us and I appreciate having them in that place. They give some pretty good advice sometimes. You get to where you really feel close to many of them.

“You get to the place where you get to know their favorite snacks, favorite foods and little things you know will make them happy on an individual basis,” said Matthews.