By: Wynter Bond
While walking to the café, there are a lot of questions that come to mind, jumbling and tangling themselves together. What is there to eat today? Will I be able to get a booth? Is Russ making grilled cheese? Should I sit by the window or the fireplace? What kind of pizza will they have today? Is the sandwich bar open?
But there is one question for which, nine times out of ten, the answer will be yes: will I see Mrs. Polly today?
Polly Gaskins has worked at Virginia Wesleyan for 21 years, and she said she does not plan on stopping anytime soon. Students say they look forward to seeing her familiar face every day,but there is a lot that people do not know about this long-term member of the Virginia Wesleyan dining staff.
Mrs. Polly has been married to her husband since 1979. They have two children, Ebony, 35 and David, 38, and a granddaughter named Leilonni.
“That is my princess. She is my joy,” Mrs. Polly said.
With her husband being in the military, Mrs. Polly traveled to many places. “I have been to Germany, Fort Riley, Kansas, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Fort Stewart, Georgia, and this is my last stop,” Mrs. Polly said.
Mrs. Polly not only works at Virginia Wesleyan, she also volunteers here.
“I like giving back to others,” Mrs. Polly said. She volunteers at the winter homeless shelter held in the C-MAC every year at the college. She also volunteered at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. Mrs. Polly works as a youth pastor at her church, Restoration Church Ministry, in Portsmouth.
Mrs. Polly said she is well aware of the effect that she has on faculty and students alike. She said that it is all about having a family atmosphere to her and making the students feel at home even though they are not. She said she genuinely cares about each student that walks up to talk to her and casually jokes or laughs with each and every person she sees.
A lot of students strike up conversations with the familiar café greeter, and she said it puts a smile on her face every time.
“I love people,” Mrs. Polly said. “I love being around people, I’m a people person.”
Mrs. Polly says she thinks highly of the food Virginia Wesleyan provides students, albeit not everyone agrees with her.
“I think we have a good variety of stuff,” Mrs. Polly said. “It’s not like Mama’s home cooking, but I think that even if we had different food, then people still wouldn’t like at least something.”
That does not stop her from having a favorite though. Ms. Lena’s soup and chicken salad are Mrs. Polly’s dishes of choice.
Virginia Wesleyan students express their appreciation of Mrs. Polly.
“She is sweet and a good conversation person,” freshman Gabby Fox said. “She affects my dining experience because she’s really nice and if she weren’t here I would be upset,” Fox said.
Junior Avriana Chavez said she shares the same sentiment. “I do think that the campus is a big fan of her and would miss her dearly,” Chavez said. “She was intimidating to me my freshman year, but she has definitely grown on me,” Chavez continued.
Mrs. Polly says that her mother always taught her to follow the Golden Rule: treat others the way that you would want to be treated. She said her mother always stressed the importance of kindness.
“You don’t know what someone is going through or what they are feeling. It is best to treat everyone with respect,” Mrs. Polly said.
One doesn’t see Mrs. Polly in a bad mood often, but there is one thing that gets her goat.
“I do not like when people do not swipe their cards. I would rather you just be honest with me than try to sneak past me,” Mrs. Polly said. So, word to the wise: nothing gets past Mrs. Polly.