When we think of the food service industry, family is not the first word that comes to mind. But for Jodi Kuhlman, who works and greets students and faculty with a friendly smile as they enter the Leaf Raker, family is what her job is all about.

Kuhlman began her work here at Goshen College three years ago when the college decided to make the switch to the AVI Fresh food service. During this transition, her fiancé and her son began working with AVI as well. But what makes Kuhlman’s story unique is the opportunity she had to work with not only her fiancé and son, but also with her mother, who worked in Westlawn for 16 years before retiring this past Thanksgiving.

Working as a family “was all neutral and positive,” said Kuhlman. “We didn’t’t have any issues.” After working the day together, they would all return to Kuhlman’s mother’s house, where they lived during that time. “We did fine because we like each other,” explained Kuhlman. “There was no drama.”

Currently, she and her son are the only members of the family employed by AVI. But Kuhlman still feels a strong sense of community and family with her customers at the Leaf Raker.

“I love working at Goshen College,” Kuhlman said. “The personal interaction [at the Leaf Raker] is better than at Westlawn. We feel very motherly towards you guys.” This familial connection between Kuhlman and her customers reflects the joy she receives from her day-to-day interactions with people.

Kuhlman, who has always had a love of working with people, spent ten years working at Bashor Children’s Home. Her experience of connecting and helping the children there fueled the passionate and kind spirit that she brings to her work at the Leaf Raker.

“I’ve realized how blessed I am to have had many kinds of jobs that I really like and are very customer service based,” said Kuhlman. “I just really like people.”

Kuhlman’s kind-hearted spirit and warm smile provided her with a unique opportunity two years ago when Sammy Rosario, a recent GC grad, made an unusual request.

“My most memorable moment here was when Sammy asked the AVI workers to be his back-up dancers for the Spring Kick-Off to the song Born This Way. It was totally unexpected and he even asked us to wear our uniforms!”

Friendships and connections like these with GC students and staff are what make the job enjoyable for Jodi. “I also really like the diversity here,” Kuhlman said. “The other day, I said an international student’s name and I thought, ‘Gosh I know a lot of names!’”

Goshen’s strong sense of community and family values is reflected through Kuhlman’s positive experience working for AVI fresh. So the next time you decide to grab a bite to eat at the Leaf Raker, give Jodi or any of other workers a friendly hello and smile. Like Jodi, let’s greet each day with gratitude and a smile, spreading love and a powerful sense of community throughout our campus.