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Misericordia Provides Food for the Soul AND for the Body!BKArticle

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by Brian Kearney

Life centers around food everywhere, including at Misericordia. Anthony “Tony” Kearney Jr., our oldest brother at Misericordia, smiles and says, “Many people eat. It is Mr. Bob Noga who cooks the meals for our home.”

Over 1100 employees, 600 residents and many volunteers eat every day, every month, every year on the 64-acre Misericordia campus. In addition to preparing food for all these people, Misericordia also operates a restaurant, The Greenhouse Inn, the Hearts and Flour Bakery, the Hearts and Flour Bakery & Cafe, and The Misericordia Sweetheart Shoppe in Glenview. And there are also shipping orders, sales at various pop-up tents, and holiday stores.

I had questions, and smart folks had answers, so armed with pencils, pens, reporter pads, and one telephone, I decided to talk in more detail with Chris Siefer, the Manager of The Sweetheart Shoppe, about his job:

Q: How did you find a job at Misericordia? When did you start?

I started 11 years ago. I was looking for work where I could make a difference and fulfillment that was larger than a paycheck.

Q: How much training does this job require?

In my position, you need to be certified as a manager in food safety. The job is really about customer service, conveying our mission, and supplying a clean, welcoming atmosphere.

Q: How did Covid affect your job?

The Sweetheart Shoppe closed for 3 months at the beginning of Covid. During that time, I worked in the main bakery, helping with shipping orders. Since the Shoppe has reopened, our sales have grown. Things are even better now!

Q: Has technology helped you do this job?

The ability to communicate with customers via social media,etc. is indispensable. And by using technology, we have improved our ability to see trends in sales and better position ourselves for the coming months and years.

Q: When do you shop for the food? Do you buy ingredients in large or small quantities? Do you order or does your staff participate in ordering?

I primarily order finished products from the Misericordia Bakery on campus. We do use fresh fruit in our smoothies, which we buy in small quantities.

Q: How many people work each day?

I work with another manager. We have up to four volunteers and two resident workers in the Shoppe each day. They help customers with gifts and bakery orders, as well as answering questions.

Q: Who do you report to? Do you meet often?

I report to Bob Noga and Fr. Jack Clair. Our meetings are typically as needed, but we communicate throughout the week.

Q: What holidays are the most challenging?

Most of our business revolves around holidays. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas sees the Shoppe at its busiest, but each holiday brings a spike in sales.

Q: Do you have regular health inspections?

We do have health department inspections.

Q: Do you interact with the families and guardians?

Families and friends of residents are always in the Shoppe! They love supporting Mis and appreciate the quality of the bakery and the gifts they can find here. We love seeing the familiar faces walk in.

Q: Do you become involved if someone asks for suggestions, recipes, or a new food?

We always like to hear what our customers think and receptive to what they’d like to see in the Shoppe.

Q: Do you attend seminars or ever meet with other cooks from across the city and state?

I attend various trainings and speak with local business owners via the Chamber of Commerce. I also sometimes speak with local groups supporting local businesses.

Years ago, I was volunteering with residents at the old Devon Café. We received trays of food from Misericordia's kitchen, delivered on a small truck by Jimmy, Paul or Pat (they were identical twins). When mentioning food service on campus, I heard the same name over and over - Mr. Bob Noga, Director of Food Services. This led some of us to speculate (in jest!), “Bob has been here the longest – no one knows how long – so we say Bob came with the buildings!" Or maybe, “The Great Chicago Fire destroyed many records. Was Bob here before that??” Tony, my gregarious and witty brother, looked at me and, rolling his eyes, said, “Funny, Brian, real funny!"

All families with loved ones at Misericordia have profound admiration for the devotion of the staff. They provide wonderful care, have many skills, and share joy with their residents. They are tireless and they demonstrate that each job at Misericordia is important. Can I ask you, please write a note of thanks to Sister Rosemary Connelly, Father Jack, and other staff?

Thank you.

Brian & Anthony “Tony” Kearney

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