You won’t see her mentioned on the glossy brochures. Her influence on the campus is too subtle for that.
Her antics at the register and conversations get her remembered. But it’s the care she shows for students that sets her apart.
Shelly North, better known as Ms. Shelly, spends most of her days ringing up transactions at the Curb Café.
“It’s just my personality. I like to keep the line moving, a smile on your face and entertain all at the same time,” Ms. Shelly said with a hearty laugh.
Eight years ago, Ms. Shelly joined the Sodexho staff.
“A friend of mine told me about it [the job]. I wanted to work with the public. I’m a people person,” said Ms. Shelly.
Affectionate names like “Honey Booger,” “Baby,” “Sweetheart,” “Cutie” and “Sugar” are constant refrains coming from Ms. Shelly as she swipes student ID cards.
“Everyday she comes up with a new name for me. She’s my favorite,” said sophomore Kelsey Wade. “[She’s] so sweet and manages to talk me in to getting a cookie nearly every time I eat in the Curb.”
The affection she shows for students can sometimes turn into playful banter between “jealous” parties at Ms. Shelly’s register.
A young lanky man by the name of Mark, apparently a frequent Curb customer, started sweet-talking Ms. Shelly while fumbling with his purchase. Mentions of “miss you baby” and “must visit more often” filled the conversation.
Right behind the smooth talking man was a petite sorority girl who was not about to have Ms. Shelly “cheating on her.”
“There’s enough love to go around, honey. At least I’m not cheating on you behind your back,” Ms. Shelly teased.
And there always is. Ms. Shelly makes sure of it.
“I’m their momma away from home,” she said. “Everybody needs someone when away from home that cares for you, will listen to you. That’s what I stand for.”
It’s a stance she hopes others latch on to.
“I’ve got two grandbabies in college now, I hope somebody is giving them the love and support I give to y’all, ‘cause you all are my babies,” she said.
“Momma Shelly” spends her shifts as well as her free time checking in on her babies and sometimes “scolding” some of her more wayward underlings for not sleeping.
Regulars are greeted with specialized nicknames like “Stevie-Wevie” or “Player.”
A basketball player walks in and immediately heads right to her register. He leans down and Ms. Shelly pats his head as he tells her about his weekend.
A few minutes pass, and Ms. Shelly sends him on his way with a Muscle Milk and a promise that “Momma gonna come peep in on y’all.”
If her efforts for caring and “spoiling” during school hours weren’t enough, Ms. Shelly has a “baby board” in her den where she keeps photos of all her babies after they graduate.
Just ask her about her “babies” and Ms. Shelly’s face lights up.
She can tell stories about her “babies” that graduated two, five and even seven years ago.
Many will come back to visit after graduation or even call asking if Ms. Shelly would like to come to lunch during breaks.
“Makes me feel good that I could instill, was that impressionable on them that they want to come back and see me,” she said.
Recently, new photos of her babies have been added to the board.
“I’ve attend four weddings of my babies from here,” she said. “Now I’ve got their wedding photos added to my baby board right there with their graduation photo.”
Breaks seem too long for Ms. Shelly; she’d rather be here with her babies.
“I miss y’all, truly miss you guys. After a break I’m ready to get back to work and to see my babies,” she said as she bagged a lunch for a student in a hurry.
One of Ms. Shelly’s senior babies nicknamed “Miss D” gets to the register. Talk about the weather and weekend plans dominate the conversation until May graduation is brought up.
That’s when Ms. Shelly reminds her that she’ll be sad to see “Miss D” go.
And the sadness is genuine. The process of losing her the students she loves is a sad one, but one she is willing to go through.
“I’m doing the Lord’s work. God said be servants to each other and that’s what I try to be,” she said.
Whether it’s just needing a sandwich or a momma to listen and care for you, Ms. Shelly is always there, Monday through Friday, swiping cards and doing her best to provide an atmosphere that students want to be in.