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Three generations cooking

A family legacy in Dining Services

-by Sharon Vermeer, Senior Care Dining Services Manager

When Marlys De Jager joined the Orange City Area Health System in 1987 she didn’t realize she would be starting a family legacy. De Jager retired in 2010, but she is proud to note that her daughter and her granddaughter are currently working within the system, and all three are in Dining Services. “I didn’t know much about cooking when I started, so I learned a lot!” laughed De Jager. “My mom taught me more baking, and I never really did that when I worked. The best part for me was the hours: I started at 5:30 in the morning and was done by 1:30. Those were great hours for raising my kids. But I don’t get up that early anymore!” She also noted that she doesn’t cook much now. “I have two girls and a granddaughter who cook way more than I do. My husband Curt always cooked at home. He likes cooking.”

Growing up, De Jager loved being outside with the animals instead of in the kitchen. He mother was an excellent cook, so she knew what good food tasted like. But it was a little bit of a shock when she interviewed for her position. “In my interview with Shari Baker (Head of Human Resources) I asked ‘I COOK?!?!? What does that involve?’ And she said, ‘Well, normally you do that on top of the stove…” De Jager laughed and shook her head. “I never regretted working at OCAHS. Even working every other weekend meant I got days off during the week. That’s pretty nice too.” De Jager actually left the job and went to another one. For one day. De Jager said ruefully, “I thought I wanted to try something else, but that first day I realized it was nothing like I expected. I asked to come back and, since my position wasn’t filled yet, I could!”

Although De Jager retire in 2010, her daughter Gail Hernandez is now working full-time for us at Landsmeer Ridge Retirement Center. Hernandez, who worked as a dishwasher at the old hospital for a year when she was sixteen, rejoined the system as a casual cook in 2015 and then joined full time in May of 2021, after working full-time at another business for twenty-two years. “I was glad to get back into the kitchen again,” she smiled. Julie Pottebaum had trained me as a dishwasher, and there she was at Landsmeer as a cook too! We had both left and came back again.  It’s a good work environment, with good benefits and insurance. That means a lot!”

Hernandez’ daughter Alicia joined the system as a server at Landsmeer when she was fourteen and still in eighth grade. Now turning sixteen, Alicia has moved up to the hospital to be a cook assist and salad cook. “I didn’t want to work at a grocery store, and my mom told me there was an opening for a server,” she explained. “I worked from 4:30-7:00 mostly, so that worked with school. The tenants are so nice! They and the staff are so friendly.”

All three women agree that they love the work environment. “It’s a great place to work!”