Services on tap for student nutrition official
Services will be held Saturday to celebrate a woman that dedicated her life to making sure that students always had a nutritious meal to eat, not only throughout the school year but during the summers.
Charlene Story, student nutrition services director for the Yuma Union High School District, passed away on Oct. 5, leaving what chief financial officer Dianne Cordery shared will be, "a huge void in our district."
In memory of her life and years serving the district, services will begin at 3 p.m. in the Yuma High School cafeteria.
In regards to the location of the services, Cordery said that the school district staff and students were her second family and it only seemed appropriate to hold them there.
"This truly was her life," she said referencing the last 14 years she spent working for the district.
Cordery said that Story was always working to make sure that the district's campuses were up to date with federal regulations for school meals while always striving to not being a huge burden financially, so much so that she received recognition from the state level for the frugality of her program.
"We had the state calling and asking us how we were doing things. She was a leader in our state as far as food service industry and school nutrition," said Cordery.
She was also involved in running a program on the high school campuses and in other areas of Yuma County for children to eat for free during the summer months through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program.
Cordery added that she was a big proponent for student workers, especially students with special needs, and often integrated them into the food service program.
"We’ve had several students that have enjoyed the program so much that after they graduated have come back to be employees with our district in the food service department," said Cordery.
"The work she had done with them was really unbelievable."
Gila Ridge High School cafeteria manager Theresa Jones said it was evident that Story cared for the students on her campus. "She didn't want a child to ever go home hungry or a student worker to fail at his or her job."
Jones added, "She wanted all of us to learn, care and be proud of our district through the good times and the bad, and most of all she wanted us to look at each child like they were our grandchildren or kids and treat them like you would like for someone to treat yours."
Story was also active in YUHSD's Safety Committee as the group's president for the past two years and was involved in 4-H as a leader in cake decorating and as a food judge.
In lieu of flowers, a scholarship fund will be established through the high school district for graduating seniors interested in pursuing an education in culinary arts. Donations for the scholarship fund can be sent to Dianne Cordery at 3150 S. Avenue A, Yuma, Arizona, 85664. For questions about donations, Cordery can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 928-502-4611.
Story's daughter Lyssa said that her mother first began working with YUHSD as a cafeteria manager at Yuma High School in 1999. She later became what was then called the Food Services accounting clerk for the district as well as the director of the Summer Food Service program in 2001. She later became the Food Services director in 2003.
"She worked all the time, I’d call her on the weekend and she’d be in front of her laptop – she was just really passionate about it," said her daughter Lyssa. "She was a great lady, she was very dedicated to her family and dedicated to a lot of things. She sacrificed a lot for my brother and I."
She worked in various restaurant, bakery and food service jobs in California and Oregon before working at YUHSD.
Story was born in San Diego, Calif. on Dec. 18, 1950 and raised in Scio, Ore. on a small farm. She was preceded in death by her parents Helen Mills Hilbert and Edgar Allan Ray and siblings Joan and Ed Ray. She was survived by children Lyssa and Jerod; daughters-in-law Heidi and Catherine; grandchildren Zolen, Zayden, Kaelen and Hannah; as well as many nieces and nephews and pets.