St. Joseph Regional School says goodbye to longtime volunteers
St. Joseph Regional School`s cafeteria never will be the same again.
For the past 23 years McKeesport residents Alvin and Betty Decker have been serving food to the students at the Port Vue school. The couple served their last meal Thursday afternoon.
‘You can`t replace them,’ kindergarten teacher Janet Kuchuba said as her class was coming through the line.
‘You get accustomed to doing it and it`s just routine,’ Alvin Decker said. ‘It`s been pleasurable. We`ve met a lot of kids through here. Some of the kids that have gone through are now married and have kids. A lot of them are very successful. We`ve had a lot of good kids come through here. They`ll come back and see us. We had one come back here just last week from Colorado.
‘We go out to eat and we see kids and their families that have grown up and they still recognize us, but I have a hard time recognizing the kids because they grow up; I just got old.’
The Deckers are calling it quits due to age and health reasons.
‘We`re both going to be 80 years old this summer,’ Alvin Decker said. ‘The old body`s telling you it`s time. We were quite active while we were here. For 10 years we ran the kitchen for the bazaar. I couldn`t do it now. The old body says, ‘No.`’
Alvin Decker said they have worked in the cafeteria while others have come and gone, and his wife has been on the payroll for the past six years because there have not been many workers at the school.
‘They`re friendly people and I`m doing it for the kids,’ Betty Decker said about why she has continued at the school. ‘They come back to see us too, but this is it. Some of the kids aren`t like they used to be. … We`ve enjoyed ourselves. We`ll miss them all.’
Alvin Decker said the school is about half the size as it was when they first volunteered.
A party is being planned next week in Greenock in Elizabeth Township to celebrate the Deckers` contribution to the school.
The couple started volunteering at the school in 1988 while their grandson Joshua Decker attended kindergarten. Joshua Decker is now 29.
Many students thanked the Deckers as their names were being crossed off for lunch.
Alvin Decker said he is going to spend his newfound free time ‘on the front porch with the dog,’ and Betty chimed in stating, ‘I`m going to loaf with him.’
Cafeteria manager Joyce Marker, who has worked with the Deckers since their start, became emotional late Thursday morning as they prepared for the next round of students.
‘They`re the best,’ Marker said. ‘We`ve done it all together. We`ve done all the school bazaars, playing cards at night.’
Marker said the cafeteria relies heavily on volunteers, and she is not sure what the future holds for the school now that the Deckers are departing.
‘It depends on enrollment. I think Catholic schools are in trouble. People can`t afford it,’ Marker said. ‘There`s no money.’