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Going above and beyond to serve: Almeda ES Cafeteria Lead wins HISD Impact Award

2021 March 12
by HISD Communications

Taji Tillis is a woman who believes in the power of asking.

So, in December, when the cafeteria team lead at Almeda Elementary School saw a need for more resources in her community, she took a chance and approached the head of her department to make a big ask.

Could her campus be turned into an HISD food distribution site? Within 24 hours, the Almeda distribution site was born.

“I knew she could either tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Tillis said, referring to her conversation with Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins. “There was nothing wrong in just asking.”

On Thursday, Tillis received the HISD Business Operations Customer Service Impact Award, which recognizes employees who display excellent performance, exemplary customer service, and regularly go above and beyond. 

Tillis’ ability to take initiative is part of the reason Wiggins nominated her for the award, an honor she received with a surprise celebration on campus. Surrounded by the school principal and small group of colleagues, Tillis was presented with a framed certificate, award, and celebratory cake. Others tuned-in virtually.

“A whole bunch of kids that may not have been fed, have been fed because of you,” Wiggins said, joining the celebration online.

Though Tillis said she was surprised to receive the award, many of her colleagues said it was fitting and deserving.

Since establishing the Almeda distribution site, Tillis and her team have served more than 19,500 meals to the community. Together, they’ve nearly tripled the number of meals served.

“She cares for the community. She’s all about the children,” Nutrition Services Operations Manager Tammie Green said. “Whatever she can do to benefit them and serve them, she’s going to do it. Her passion is in serving.”

Tillis also works closely with Wraparound Services to advance programs such as Backpack Buddies, Underwear for Under Privileged Students, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers. These programs provide weekend meals, clothing, and other resources to students in need.

“I have been with the district for so long. Providing service and reaching out to the community is normal for me. I was born to do this,” Tillis said with a laugh.

Almeda Principal Medina thanked Tillis for the work she does for the campus and community.

“You came to me at the beginning of the school year with a vision. You went with it, you made it your own, and we greatly appreciate you for it,” Medina said. “You have done an amazing job.”

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