Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 23, 2001

Doris Menden retires after 35 years at St. Mary's Care Center

By Patrice Waldron

Doris Menden was honored at a luncheon with a luncheon at St. Mary's Care Center recently, upon her retirement.

Thirty-five years is a long time to work in one facility. It takes loyalty, dedication, and flexibility to continue working in the same place.

Doris has seen a lot of changes over the years, including the coming and going of both staff and residents.

Her goal was always to do her best at whatever job she was doing. Staying close to home in Winsted was a big plus, too.

"I always could get to work, except one time when there was a blizzard with high winds. Our supervisor had to come and get me on a snowmobile. I couldn't even walk the one block to work. We even tipped over on my way back home," said Doris.

When I first started, there were only 35 residents, all on the second floor. The convent was down past the chapel, explained Menden.

I liked working with the sisters. The sisters always worked in the kitchen in their long white habits - it must have been hot. They cooked without using a set menu, she continued.

Doris' job changed several times over the years, but it always had something to do with dietary.

She was initially hired as an evening diet aide. Next, she held the position of diet clerk for the nursing home and the hospital. Part of her duties as diet clerk included visiting the residents and patients, and charting the foods they liked and disliked.

When the hospital closed, she returned to her job as diet aide.

When a kitchen manager began cross-training the staff, Doris learned about cooking in a commercial setting.

She has spent most of her time over the last four years cooking for the residents.

"I won't be getting up so early," explained Doris. When preparing breakfast for the residents, she'd have to wake up in the morning between 4 and 4:30 a.m.

"I'm looking forward to staying up past 9 p.m. if I want to," she continued.

Sometimes I've had to take a nap after work if I wanted to stay up later, said Menden.

When she first started cooking for the nursing home she was worried about getting everything done on time. She said she learned to be organized, and also got to know what the residents' like to eat.

There have been many changes in food service over the years. The use of a steamer has been a big plus.

With the use of the steamer, food takes less time to prepare, and the quality is better too. Vegetables, some meat, and potatoes are often cooked using the steamer.

Microwave ovens have also helped shorten cooking time.

The changes in technology have lead to there being fewer kitchen staff that years ago, said Doris. More foods come prepackaged from supplies, so they are easier to prepare. Individual serving sizes, such as chicken breasts, make preparation more streamlined.

Of all the changes that have taken place in the kitchen over the years, the best change was moving the steam tables into the dining rooms, first into the second floor dining room, and more recently into the dining room on the first floor.

She feels that this is a big improvement for the residents, with hotter food and nicer service. The residents used to have their meals given to them on trays, but now with the steam tables, it's a more home-like setting.

Doris takes some fond memories with her as she retires. The staff parties from 15 to 20 years ago, and the big staff cookouts held behind the nursing home will always be remembered.

Menden also recalled a big Christmas party, sponsored by St. Mary's, and held at the Blue Note. It was an event where many staff members from the hospital and the nursing home attended, and it featured dinner and a band.

As she retires, Doris is looking forward to doing some redecorating, flower gardening, reading, a summer trip, and even cleaning out some drawers. She's not sure what she'll do with all of her free weekends.

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