Ms. Candy, who works in Lakeside Cafe in the University Center, wants students to feel right at home. “I love the students,” she said. “They all know I’m here if they need someone to talk to.” (Photo by Kevin Liles/The Bent Tree)
By Kevin Liles
Some call her Mama. Others call her Ms. Candy. Some just smile as they pass through her line. The one thing they all have in common? They walk away feeling a little better than when the came in Lakeside Cafe.
Her name is Candy Marie McDonald, and though her job is to serve CSU students whatever is on the menu, she considers it much more than that.
“I love the students,” she said. “I love being able to talk to them. They all know I’m here if they need someone to talk to.”
Ms. Candy has worked at Lakeside for the past two years. And ever since she started, everyone knew there was something special about her. “She’s so wonderful,” said 78-year-old Thelma Williams, who works in the kitchen at Lakeside Cafe. “She’s such a joy to be around.”
Ms. Candy is one of 23 children, all girls. Yes, 23 children. But Ms. Candy loved every minute of it.
“It was a thrill to be at home,” she said. “I’ve had a cheerful life.”
And she plans to share that cheer with as many people as possilbe.
“Everytime I come in, she’s always saying, ‘Hey baby, how are you doing?’” said Matt Shellnutt, a CSU senior. “She’s really sweet.”
Because Ms. Candy’s father was in the Army, her family moved around a lot. She’s lived in many places, but most of her childhood was spent in New Orleans. She has been a Georgia resident for about 30 years.
Ms. Candy takes special care to remember many of her customers’ likes and dislikes, as well as their allergies. She makes each person feel important.
“Some of them can’t have certain foods and some of them just don’t like some things,” she said. “I’m like their mother. I make sure they get what they need … and that they eat their vegetables.”
Ms. Candy works five days a week at Lakeside, and also volunteers her time with terminally ill patients. That work comes natural to her — she worked as a nurse’s assistant in hospice care for many years before coming to work in the food service industry.
“That’s all I’ve done my whole life,” she said, referring to caring for people. “A lot of people depend on me. I just ask Jesus to give me the strength to be here for them.
“I want them to wake up and think ‘Candy is coming today,’” she said of the patients she works with now.
As for her customers in Lakeside, she wants them to have the best. She carefully scoops out each serving as if she were preparing it for herself. Each plate is a small work of art for her.
She separates out the darker plates from the lighter ones because she says it’s more pleasing.
“The food just looks better when it’s on a lighter background,” she says.
Ms. Candy has no children of her own, but adopted six boys. Now, she has adopted an entire campus.
“These are my students,” she said.