If you have ever been to the cafeteria, or the “caf” as it is known to many students, you must have noticed the little blond lady on the right side of the counter. She introduces herself as Janet, if you ask, and is guaranteed to provide you just the right portions of protein, starch and vegetables you require.
But “Janet the food lady” is an oversimplification of who she is.
Janet Saunders was born and raised in Beloit. She’s moved around a bit, but has stuck to her home state all her life. Her very first job was in her mom’s restaurant at the age of 14, and she’s stuck to food service ever since.
“Sometimes I feel like a big person working a little job,” Janet said, but she emphasizes she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I wanted a whole bunch of kids,” she said. “I just wished God would bless me with a boy and a girl, and he did.”
However, at the age of 30, she had to put her life on hold after suffering a stroke that put her in the hospital and partially paralyzed her hand. Janet’s daughter ended up saving her life by calling an ambulance the day of her stroke.
Janet has two children, a 22 year old daughter and a 21 year old son.
“It all worked out,” she said. “Working at the college, I have way more kids than anyone else.”
She cares about every one of the people she serves on a personal level.
“When you guys come up to the line, I can tell how you’re doing,” she said. “If you’re happy or sad.”
She’s always ready with a hug or advice, often even without needing to be asked.
Over the summer, Janet works at the Air Capitol Classic golf tournament. It’s a big job, she said.
“It takes about a month to set it up, and we only run for about a week.”
She spends about two months total at the tournament over summer, working as a runner.
I get to hang up signs, get tools, fill ice chests, and that’s just to start,” Janet said.
She drives her own little cart around and works as a sort of handy-woman for all the odd jobs, too.
As for what keeps her going, Janet said confidently, “I’m my own person. I believe in me,” she said. “I just want to change lives. I want people to remember me, that little blond lady. Do you remember that little blond lady?”
So next time you’re in the caf when Janet’s at the counter, and especially if she’s serving her favorite dishes, give her an extra smile and know that she cares. Know that you brighten her day. She’ll serve you with her typical smile, a smile that makes everyone a little happier.