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CCU Atheneum: Scott Willis has been the resident district manager for Aramark at CCU for a little over one year. He oversees all food and beverage services at CCU.
Scott Willis has been the resident district manager for Aramark at CCU for a little over one year. He oversees all food and beverage services at CCU.

CCU’s food service manager steps up to provide meals to emergency teams during Hurricane Florence

by Nicole Pippo
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When Hurricane Florence threatened major damage to Coastal Carolina University, planning evacuation routes and monitoring the storm’s path were high priorities. In the midst of the chaos and preparations, many people did not consider how scarce the food options would be as a result of the mass evacuations that took place in Conway and the area surrounding campus.

Luckily, Scott Willis, resident district manager for CCU’s food service provider Aramark, had a plan. He and his team made sure that essential employees and first responders at CCU and in Conway had meals before, during and after Florence hit the Grand Strand.

“About a year ago, I worked with the University to come up with an emergency preparedness plan,” said Willis. “As Hurricane Florence came closer, it was time to activate the plan and secure the food in our dining locations in case there was a loss of electricity.”

When the University announced its decision to evacuate campus on Sept. 11, Hicks Dining Hall remained open from 7 to 8 a.m. for students to get breakfast before leaving. Then, Willis and his team made sure dining services were provided for the remaining faculty and staff members on campus.

The CCU Emergency Operations Center (EOC) – consisting of CCU employees who provide essential services during emergency situations – was activated in Atheneum Hall before and after the storm passed through the area, and Willis provided the staff breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks out of the nearest dining hall, Chauncey’s Choice.

Not only did Willis and Aramark feed the CCU EOC, but the Horry County EOC as well. Willis and his staff worked closely with the Horry County Emergency Management Department to coordinate the transportation and distribution of hot meals to the EOC staff, public works crews out in the field, and the IT and E-911 employees working at the M.L. Brown Building in Conway.

“We appreciate the tremendous effort by Scott Willis and his team to make sure our staff were well taken care of throughout this disaster,” said Randy Webster, Horry County Emergency Management director.

The treacherous conditions throughout the region made food deliveries a challenge. “It was a huge team effort, especially from Scott and his staff,” said Sandra Baldridge-Adrian, director of contractual and business services at CCU. Baldridge-Adrian oversees the contract with Aramark, so she and Willis communicated frequently.

Many roads leading into and out of Conway were closed due to flooding after Florence. The few roads that were open were very congested, so Willis sat in hours of traffic to deliver the meals from CCU’s campus.

“Things were changing by the minute and Scott was giving me updates every 15 minutes,” said Baldridge-Adrian. “We were supposed to get two trucks delivering food at one point, and one truck didn’t show up, but Scott’s team handled that extremely well.”

“We were feeding over a 1,000 people a day for about two to three weeks,” said Willis, who managed to feed the University and county personnel with limited staff and supplies. “I’m thankful that we were able to provide a service to the folks who are out there helping others and making sure they have hot meals to fuel them.”

Willis maintained constant communication with the food service provider and worked with the Department of Transportation so that food delivery trucks were able to make their way to campus safely. “Good communication is important, especially with events of this nature,” Willis said.

Originally from Alabama, Willis has worked for 19 years in various positions in Aramark. For 13 years, Willis was a food and beverage manager in Lake Powell, Utah. For three years, he oversaw all food service as the Aramark general manager at the University of Florida. He transitioned to a more expansive role of managing food service for the state of Florida, including several universities, until he had the opportunity to come to Coastal.

Willis’ main job duty is to oversee all food and beverage services at CCU, including in the dining halls, concessions at sporting events, and catering on and off campus. He arranged for UP and Hicks Dining Halls to reopen on Friday, Sept. 28, so there were food options for students, faculty and staff who returned to campus before the University’s normal operations resumed that Monday, Oct 1.

Aramark and #CCUFoodCrew serve more than 11,000 students, faculty and staff at 14 locations on campus. There is a registered dietician and an executive chef on campus who collaborate to create menus and ensure that meals are nutritionally balanced.

“I’ve now been a part of the campus fabric for little over one year and it wholeheartedly was one of the best professional decisions I’ve made to date,” said Willis.

Though free time is scarce for Willis, he spends time practicing his golf skills at driving ranges and enjoying the beach with his family.

“I love what I do and enjoy the interaction I have with the student body, our front line associates and the #CCUFoodCrew management team on a daily basis; and how Aramark is able to be the engine at driving health, wellness and trending food options daily to the CCU community,” Willis said. “I’m thankful to be here and look forward to many more years.”

Additional information:

Baldridge-Adrian said corporate Aramark donated $250,000 to the American Red Cross on Oct. 2 for Hurricane Florence relief. CCU set up a donation drive for household and personal hygiene items from Oct. 2 to 9 in an effort to aid those affected by the storm.

To donate to CCU’s Benevolence Funds for faculty, staff and students who are experiencing economic hardship due to the effects of Hurricane Florence, visit the Go Fund Me page or coastal.edu/givenow.

For more information about #CCUFoodCrew, visit coastalcarolina.campusdish.com.

#CCUFoodCrew Twitter: twitter.com/CCUFoodCrew

#CCUFoodCrew Instagram: instagram.com/ccufoodcrew

#CCUFoodCrew Facebook: facebook.com/CampusDining

 

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