Mayor, volunteers man VES lunchroom

Published 5:57 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy helps Valley Elementary School kindergartener Sarah Gail scoop salad onto her tray. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

As a group of kindergarteners approached the end of the lunch line at about 11 a.m. on their fourth day of school at Valley Elementary School Aug. 16, they had a tough decision to make.

“Would you like a salad, a banana or pudding?” Pelham Mayor Don Murphy asked the wide-eyed children, many of whom were no taller than his waist.

Many children were quick to grab a cup of chocolate or vanilla pudding or a banana half, but many of the kids’ taste buds had not yet warmed up to the ranch dressing-topped salad.

“Good morning, what can I help you with? That pudding is good and sweet, but that salad is good too,” Murphy told one student who grimaced as Murphy offered him a salad, and instead placed a banana on his tray.

“You should go check the trash and see how much salad is thrown away after the kids realize they don’t like it,” Pelham Mayor’s Assistant Paula Holly whispered with a laugh.

Murphy was one of several volunteers, many of whom were students’ parents, helping the kindergarteners, first- and second-graders do everything from selecting items from the lunch line to opening their milk cartons.

After the kids passed Murphy’s lunch line station, they proceeded to the cashier, where they entered their identification numbers before finding a seat in the cafeteria. Because some of the students attended their first-ever day of school last week, many of them wore tags displaying their ID numbers to the cashier.

“I try to do this every year. I like to help the kids out,” Murphy said. “These kids are so adorable and so well behaved.

“It’s amazing to have a room full of kids and it be no more rowdy than this,” Murphy added as the students quietly conversed with their friends at the lunch tables.

Aug. 16 marked the second straight day Murphy helped out in the busy lunchroom.

“It’s always a joy to help the kids get their lunch trays and open their milk cartons for them if they are having trouble,” Murphy said. “I think the thing that impresses me the most is the parents volunteering and giving up their time to come help.

“They pretty much know what they want when they get to the lunch line, but it’s fun to cut up with them,” Murphy said. “Some of them will be real shy, but they will look up and grin at you.”

For VES first-grade teacher Wendy Burgess, the volunteers’ help added on to an already smooth-flowing first full week of school.

“Everything has just been wonderful so far,” Burgess said. “Every student I got this year was ready for first grade, and they have been great. I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids.”