Beloved school cafeteria worker throws pizza party for students

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 7:55 PM EDT
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PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - The cafeteria manager at St. Joseph Catholic School in Petersburg is one of a kind. For decades she’s made delicious meals for the entire school, all by herself.

Now, Mrs. Mann is getting a well-deserved thank you from some of the students who love her most. It started with love letters from a group of 6th-grade students, with gratitude baked right in.

”She has a positive attitude even though she has to work so much,” says 6th grader Dylan Shah.

“She’s always so kind and generous,” student Ashton Ford said.

”She goes the extra mile to take safety precautions during the virus,” says Matthew Britt.

The letters were delivered to Mrs. Mann, someone who has dedicated more than 30 years to the students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Petersburg.

“The students are a big part of my life here in the cafeteria,” says Mrs. Mann.

But it’s more than just food, it’s about love through action.

”She’s a really nice and generous person,” says Seyi Hester.

In the middle of the pandemic, Mrs. Mann said, “I wasn’t able to go upstairs to see the children at all.”

Her packed cafeteria, now empty. As students remained in the classrooms for lunch.

”During COVID she has been packing everyone’s meal for the whole school individually,” says Anna Martinez.

All 134 kids got an individual meal with a heart on the styrofoam box. Not seeing the kids every day started to take a toll on Mrs. Mann, so she went to the principal to come up with a solution.

“We have someone at each door greeting the children, I asked her ‘can I do that because I would be able to see the children,’” says Mrs. Mann.

It was a success, the principal said yes.

”Every day since August these 4-year-old and middle school kids have worn their masks, they’ve social distanced, they’ve given up their cafeteria, they gave up a long-time their playground, moving back and forth, hugs, kisses and I wanted them to know that we see this and we appreciate them,” says Mrs. Mann.

To pay it forward Mrs. Mann started with a love letter of her own to NBC12, hoping to have a pizza party for the entire school to say thank you.

NBC12 handed Mrs. Mann the money to pay for the pizza and a $50 dollar gift card to Mexico Restaurant.

With the help of Mr. Mann, her husband, several boxes of cheese and pepperoni pizza was ready to go upstairs.

Starting with kindergarten, the kids each got one slice of pizza.

Their reactions were priceless, it was complete and utter satisfaction. Children wearing a face mask, separated by glass dividers isn’t the ideal situation, but it’s the safe one, at least for now.

In a time like this, when so many people have sacrificed so much, this pizza party was a nice way to feel a sense of normalcy.

”The children deserve it, this is all about the children. When I wrote, it wasn’t about Ms. Mann, it was about the children,” says Mrs. Mann.

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