Positive mindset helps Herren fight her battles
Beck's employee named Gold Star Award winner
By BRANDON LaCHANCE
MENDOTA – Gerri Herren has dealt with life’s punches.
Her husband, David Herren, passed away 13 years ago, which brought her back to her childhood home in Kasbeer after 30 years in Peoria.
She was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia nine years ago and about a year ago, thyroid cancer was added to life’s punching resume.
“This is a new journey. Because of the rare form of Leukemia, I’ll have chemotherapy every day for the rest of my life,” said Herren, who is a 1981 Princeton High School graduate. “About a year ago, I lost my voice. I thought it was because of allergies because I have allergies really bad. Around Jan. 1, I felt something wasn’t right. Because I have Leukemia, everything goes through my cancer doctor. We started doing scans. In Ottawa, they said there was nothing they could do for me and sent me to a specialist in Peoria. They immediately said I needed surgery and I had a surgery on my throat on July 12th.
“With everything that life has dealt me, I’ve just learned to go with the flow. I’m not one of those to sit around and feel sorry for myself people. Life is what it is, and you just have to keep pushing forward. This mindset has helped me at work.”
For this mindset, her kindness, and priority of making every customer at Beck’s BP feel welcomed, Herren was awarded the Tom Merwin Gold Star Employee Award at the Mendota Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner and Awards Night on Friday, Nov. 3 at the Elks Lodge in Mendota.
Herren has been a part of the Beck’s team for the last 10 years and was promoted to assistant manager five years ago.
“I wait on the customers, help with paperwork and orders, I know how to prepare all of the food, and I help keep the store organized,” Herren said. “A lot of people yell at me for saying this, but I feel like I’m just doing my job.
“I love my customers. I have a lot of stuff going on in my personal life, health wise, and these guys are the best support system ever. When I was in the hospital, they sent me cards and texted me. They yell at me for saying this award isn’t something I should have because I’m just doing my job, but I’m very honored.”
On Sunday, two days after winning the award, there was a bouquet of flowers on the clerk counter at Beck’s because one of Herren’s customers brought them because she won the award.
And Herren laughs when she tells the story of what her boss, Beck’s Manager Tiffany Bloomfield says.
“My boss told me, “I can never win with you. If you’re here, they ask if you ever get a day off. When you’re gone, they ask where you’re at and don’t like that you’re not here.”
However, with her health conditions, the latter may be the more frequent reaction.
Herren may have to make a difficult choice.
“It’s a struggle right now because of my health issues, but I do love my job. One of the first things I ask my doctor is if I’m still going to be able to work,” Herren said. “Being a widow, I have to support myself and this is my getting out of the house. It’s kind of sad, but I do see it coming to an end. I’ve talked to my boss, Tiffany Bloomfield, about going to part time and working 20 hours a week instead of full time while I collect my husband’s Social Security, since I’m old enough.
“It’s sad in a way. When I think about it, I get teary-eyed. It’s a discussion that’s coming sooner than I want to admit that it’s going to be a reality.”
Whether it’s as a full-time or part-time employee she is going to enjoy every second of helping her customers at Beck’s BP.
And when she has to resign completely, she has the Tom Merwin Gold Star Employee Award to remind her of the memories of the people she worked with and her customers.