• 70°

McDonald’s worker wins car giveaway after being vaccinated

VALLEY — Shirley Hill was one of the first people in Chambers County to be diagnosed with Covid-19. She was having a bad experience with it in early 2020 before a realization had set in that something bad was on the way.

“I was sick for two months,” she said. “I was being treated for pneumonia and fortunately did not have to be hospitalized. When I tested positive for Covid the treatment remained the same, and I got better.”

Hill is 70 years old and has retired from two previous jobs. She’s been with McDonald’s in Valley for the past three years. Her specialty is cooking those famed McDonalds French fries and morning biscuits.

She was out of work for a time with her sickness, but when she returned she knew full well to follow all the safety precautions.

“Early on, Mcdonald’s was really good at that, and I’m glad,” she said. “Everyone wore masks inside the store, we washed our hands frequently and practiced social distancing. I know there were some days when I washed my hands 40 or 50 times.”

Covid was a difficult period for the Chambers-Troup County area, the U.S. and the world.

“Anyone who lived through it knows that people were scared to death of getting it,” she said. “I had it when no one knew what it was. When I got over, it I wanted to encourage everyone to take every precaution you can. Covid is something no one should get if they can avoid it.”

In the spring of 2020, the long-range hope was to have a vaccine. Having had Covid, she needed no persuasion to get that vaccine in her arm as soon as she could.

McDonald’s in Valley is owned by Jack Pezold of Columbus. He owns 20 McDonalds stores in the east-central Alabama/west-central Georgia region along with several hotels in the Columbus-Phenix City area. He has been very proactive in encouraging the employees of his businesses to get vaccinated. He gave them $50 bonuses when they got their first shot and another $50 when they got their second one.

Employees who had gotten both of them could send a copy of their vaccination card to the corporate office for a drawing. The winner would receive a Nissan Leaf electric car. Of the dozens and dozens of employees who entered the contest, Hill was the winner.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I’m 70 years old and have never won anything in my life. I texted (store manager) Joe (Wells) about it, asking if it was a joke. He texted me back that it was not a joke, that I’d won and that he was real happy for me. It’s still hard for me to believe.”

Hill said she likes driving an electric car, but it does take a lot of getting used to.

“It makes no noise!” she said. “It’s silent even when you crank it. The ride is so smooth, and it’s easy to drive. I am all for electric cars. With them, maybe we can undo a lot of the damage we have done to this earth.”

Hill said it’s very exciting to have the new car but is reluctant to look at it as a reward.

“I would have gotten vaccinated without any kind of incentive program,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do, and I encourage everyone to do it. We can’t let our guard down now. There’s this new Delta variant out there, and I understand the cases are rising, especially among those who haven’t been vaccinated. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be vaccinated. It’s free, can save your life and keep you from spreading it should you get it.”

Hill lives in the Fairfax community. She lives next door to her brother, Bobby Hill. She has two children and five grandchildren living in Texas.

She’s concerned that a growing number of people believe that Covid is over and that there’s no need for the safety precautions.

“I go into the big stores like Walmart and in grocery stores and no one wears masks these days,” she said. “Mcdonald’s requires us to wear them at work. That’s good. I can remember how sick I was when I had Covid and would never want got go through anything like that again.”

Prior to coming to McDonald’s three years ago, Hill worked in pathology at the West Georgia Medical Center and had worked for her dad, the late Artis Hill, who did the housekeeping for WestPoint Stevens during the phase out period for the corporate office.

Hill has cooked many a French fry in her time at McDonald’s.

“I kid with people that I have cooked millions of them,” she said.

That may not be far from the truth. The Valley store cooks 10 cases of French fries every day. There are 69 pounds of fries in each case. That’s 690 pounds of French fries daily.

“I’m glad someone from our store won the drawing,” Wells said. “Staffing has been rough for us since Covid. We had 50 employees before it hit. We are down to 23 now and it has been lower than that. When we run just one of our two drive-through lanes, it’s because we don’t have the staff. It’s been tough getting back to where we once were, but we are hopeful we will get there.”