Odds are, if you walk into the Park Street Café looking for a hot meal, Theresa Lamica knows who you are. The native of Burke, N.Y. has been serving up delicious fare at Alice Hyde for 15 years now, as a member of the dedicated group of volunteers who work with employees to run Park Street’s café and gift shop.
But Lamica, who now lives in Malone, a stone’s throw away from the hospital, has been serving North Country folks both young and old for much, much longer. She began her volunteerism at Alice Hyde in 2004, shortly after retiring following 21 years as a cafeteria and cleaning worker at Franklin Academy and Holy Family School in Malone.
“I was so used to working, and my daughter talked me into it,” said Lamica of why she started volunteering at Alice Hyde. “She was coming to work here (at the café) and so I thought ‘why not?’.”
For Lamica, who works three days a week at Park Street, running the café’s register and waiting tables from the morning through early afternoon, dedicating her time to keep people fed and make sure they got service with a smile was second nature. But it also fulfilled her desire to stay connected with her community after retirement.
“I like being with the people,” said Lamica, who has also served on the board of the hospital auxiliary for the past three years. “It’s nice — the people are good; they’re friendly. The people who come in, you get to know them all and it’s just good.”
Something Lamica hadn’t expected, however, was just how connected she would stay. It’s normal for the Park Street Café mainstay to run into folks she’s watched grow from schoolchildren into adults — and she never ceases to enjoy the pleasant surprise the encounters evoke in those who visit the eatery.
“They’ll come in and say: ‘I know you!’” she said. “It’s always nice to be remembered.”
Whether it’s helping someone get the most out of their lunch money — she’s a go-to resource for finding the best deals Park Street is offering on any given day — or just chatting over a hot cup of coffee, Lamica said she relishes the time spent at Alice Hyde.
For a mother and grandmother who also volunteers her time helping keep senior citizens fed through church programs that provide breakfast services, there’s nothing like greeting visitors at Park Street with a smile and a helping hand.
“I have plenty to do at home, but it’s different being with other people,” said Lamica. “It’s just a good place to work.”