Grissom High School cafeteria manager rewarded for generous efforts

Pay It Forward
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - School may be out for most students, but some folks are working to make sure kids get what they need year round. Shelia Burnett is one of them. She manages the cafeteria at Grissom High School and treats the kids like they're her own.

John Ward told us about Burnett in his nomination email. He writes, "Shelia is a very hard worker, but what makes her so deserving is that she never lets a child go hungry. Quite often, kids have forgotten their lunch money and Shelia will pay for their meal out of her pocket."

WHNT NEWS 19 showed up during lunch one day to surprise her with $319.

"I don't know what to say," says Burnett.

Sometimes it's not what you say, it's what you do. Clearly, Burnett's been doing a lot of other good things. She stays busy, calling herself a hands-on supervisor for the child nutrition program.

"We're very strict about food, temperatures, and cleanliness," describes Burnett.

Burnett has worked in school cafeterias for Huntsville City Schools for more than two decades at several different schools. Burnett describes it as a rewarding job and says the kids are always showing their gratitude. That's one of the many reasons she can't bear to see them go without.

"A lot of times the kids just forget," says Burnett. "There are cases, of course, where there is no money available and so you know you have to do something. We're not going to let the kids go hungry."

Burnett is quick to point out that she's not the only one.

"Some of my workers have done that also," says Burnett. "Over the years, every school I've worked at, they've done that. We're going to feed the kids regardless."

Feeding the kids is her priority, even if that means covering the cost herself.

"The most important thing is that we feed the kids and that's what I'm doing," explains Burnett. "I still have passion after 25 years for my job."