Janice Bender won’t be taking a walk across the street for a pick-me-up any longer.
The Oakdale Joint Unified School District employee made the trek to Starbucks from her South Third Avenue office one final time on Friday, June 29. That was the day which signified the end of her 28-year career with OJUSD.
Bender has been a customer of the 325 E. F St., Oakdale location since its doors first opened in 2001.
“I always laugh and say, I think I bought this building,” she said.
Store manager Desarae Stanton shared Bender has been a faithful customer three to four days a week for the seven years since she has called the store home.
“We get a lot of locals here,” Stanton said. “They get a lot of travelers down the street. We get all the kids from high school. I love it. I just get to see the kids grow up.”
In keeping with her love and devotion to the locals of the center of Oakdale location, Stanton and Bender shared she became saddened when she learned of the district employee’s coming retirement in early June.
“There’s something about coming here all the time,” Bender said. “The people … Everybody is so friendly.”
Upon inquiring on Bender’s post-retirement plans, Stanton had an idea. She then joked about adding Bender to the Starbucks staff, noting she’d be a natural fit.
“I said why don’t you just try it out for a day, as a greeter,” Stanton shared.
After giving it some thought, Bender decided while a long term opportunity was not of interest, a special appearance as a greeter for the day sounded fun.
“You can’t fool around when you’re in here,” Bender shared, confessing to a bit of nervousness for her scheduled shift this Friday, July 13. “That is a lot of work. You’ve got to be focused.”
“We might even put you in the drive through for a little bit and let you hand out some drinks,” Stanton said.
The guest opportunity is a first for the Starbucks location, but one Stanton shared her District Manager as well as staff are excited about.
Bender began her professional career in insurance, transitioning to a stay at home mom when her daughters were born. It’s a transition which eventually found her as a hands on district volunteer, while her girls attended Fair Oaks Elementary. She became a contracted district employee in 1990, and she retired from the district as a Purchasing Clerk after nearly three decades of service.
“I’m 75 and things have changed,” she said of her decision to retire. “It’s just time.
“It’s bittersweet,” she continued, “I love people and I really enjoy the camaraderie.”
Aside from her special visit to Starbucks, the retiree has plans for a few trips to visit family and friends, but beyond that is still to be determined.
“I probably will do a lot of volunteering,” she said, noting that having summers off is not common for the District Office staff, as it’s their busiest time. “Typically I’ve never been off for long in summer.”
With 28 years and multiple administrations behind her, Bender noted major kudos and respect for current Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone.
“He has a vision all the time to better our school district,” she said. “He’s been an absolute asset to our school district.”
And as for the bittersweet part she said, “It’s been wonderful working for the district. I’m blessed. I’ve gotten 28 years to see the stuff that has been improved.”
Bender’s shift at Starbucks will begin at 9 a.m. this Friday, July 13. She will be outfitted complete as a team member with apron and name tag. She is hopeful that friends and former colleagues stop by for a beverage of choice, a hello and a smile.