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WORLD `FAMILY’ COOKS TOGETHER, STAYS TOGETHER

SHARE WORLD `FAMILY’ COOKS TOGETHER, STAYS TOGETHER

World events get special attention from the kitchen staff at St. Joseph Villa.

Whether it's the Berlin Wall coming down or war in Iran, the return of soldiers' bodies from Vietnam or an attempted coup in the Philippines - all topics pique the interest of the ethnically diverse staffers.Leticia Azarcon, director of dietary services, describes it as a fascinating fluke. "Many, many of our kitchen workers were born in other countries. Some have been here for so long that they are a family - but a very mixed-up family."

Azarcon, who was a teacher in the Philippines, has worked at the nursing home since 1971.

"Love keeps me here," she said. "We've grown to be like a family. We spend more time here than we do at home. The sisters pray for us. Priests counsel us. And we are helping old people."

Wally Popp, who was born in Germany, has been preparing the meals for the center's residents for more than 19 years. Her helper, Elsa Bullough, was born in Italy. For the past 19 years she has prepared cookies, desserts and breads.

The staff list reads like a mini United Nations roster.

Brothers Hao Tang and Vinh Tang, afternoon helpers, are from Vietnam.

Emires Morano, the cart assembler and cook's assistant, left her native Venezuela when she was 10 years old.

Dishwasher Firooz Namini hails from Iran. He's worked at the villa for more than six years.

Longevity is another trademark in the kitchen. The staff (21 people including part-time weekend helpers) has logged in hundreds of years of service between them. Steve Hartman, a dishwasher, has been there more than 23 years. Rayes Fernandez has put in 24 years. Short-term help is the exception, rather than the rule. Most have worked there between 19 and 25 years.