GUERNSEY – Dawndrea Daly has done a lot for Guernsey High School and the students that attend. While the pandemic shut down many places of businesses and schools, Guernsey High School became dark and vacated with the exception of Daly.
She remained on the front lines, preparing food for students who were in quarantine. This was the case in almost all school systems in Wyoming, but at Guernsey, Daly was a one-woman juggernaut. In the face of COVID she pressed on making sure her kids were fed each day.
For this service, Governor Gordon and wife Jennie planned a prayer breakfast in honor of heroes such as Daly. Because of the pandemic restrictions, this breakfast was done virtually and will stream on March 4 across the state of Wyoming.
Daly was asked to attend the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Cheyenne Feb. 17.
“Trista Ostrom, chief of staff for Wyoming’s first lady, Jennie Gordon sent me an email,” Daly said. “It said that they would like for me to come be a part of the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. Not only be a part, but also to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. They are honoring Wyoming heroes.”
In the email that was sent by Ostrom, it read, “I wanted to send you a note and ask about your willingness to participate in the virtual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast this year. We are doing a showcase of stories around Wyoming of the heroes that kept all industries going despite the pandemic. The first lady would love for your story to be told and she thought you may be a great person to lead the Pledge of Allegiance for the event. Although the event will be virtual, we need to pre-record each part of the event that will air on March 4. We have scheduled to film Feb. 17 from 9-11 a.m. Is there any possibility of having you in Cheyenne that morning to record the pledge and have the emcee include your story as you are introduced?”
As for her role in being a hero in Platte County, it came suddenly.
“We shut down on a Monday,” she said. “On Thursday I started the summer feeding program to feed our kids. My staff got reassigned, so it was just me.”
According to Daly, the superintendent, the principal, the board president came in and helped distribute but she was putting the breakfasts and lunches together by herself from March through August. The food was for any child 18 and under whether they went to school at Guernsey or not.
“I was so excited because I did 16,210 and when I saw that number I was thrilled,” she said. “Until I saw like Wheatland or Cheyenne numbers and then I thought, well, I’m not that great. I think they picked me not only because of the numbers, but because I did it by myself.”
When Daly was contacted, her and the first lady talked for quite a while and Daly knew of the Harley connection between her and Mrs. Gordon.
“I said, once this pandemic is over, how many first ladies have lunch ladies that ride Harleys,” she said. “I would like to ride my Harley to your house and meet you. She said, just buzz the button and I’ll let you in.”
The original plan was for Daly to ride her Harley to the Governor’s mansion, but Feb. 17 was under a winter storm warning with blizzard conditions. Daly then got another email the following day inviting her to have breakfast with the first lady before the filming began.
“I couldn’t sleep the night before,” Daly said. “Because I thought, how do I act? How do I dress? And the roads were horrible going down and it was snowing like crazy coming home. I went, rang the buzzer and said who I was and they said, come on in. The chief of staff for the first lady took me into a room where they had delicious pastries and coffee and we sat and visited like we were old friends, cause she’s amazing.”
Daly then went out to the film crew where she was miked-up. She was introduced and then after saying Good Morning, she said, “Ladies and gentlemen, please join me for the Pledge of Allegiance.”
“It was hilarious in my conversation with the first lady,” Daly said. “One of our board members said make sure you take a picture by the seal. Not making the correlation, I thought, ‘well I like dragonflies, maybe she likes seals. Not thinking it was the seal of Wyoming. So, I told her that and she laughed and she made a seal noise.”
Since that morning, Daly and the first lady, both thinking alike bought each other seals. The animals. Not the state seal.
“I am actually representing all food service people in Wyoming,” Daly said. “The first lady on the taping did a long introduction about that and about how Guernsey was affected by not only the pandemic, but the shutdown of the railroad. She provided numbers and then she introduced me.”
After the taping had concluded, Daly was then taken downtown and Ostrom gave her a private tour of the capitol.
“It was pretty amazing and it was a wonderful day,” Daly said. “I was so nervous, but they are the most genuine people I ever met.”
Daly not only takes care of the foodservice department, but goes above and beyond and applies for grants each year to get things for the school. So far she has gotten a new salad bar, fresh fruit that is distributed to each class for a snack, and the Geodome for students to grow fresh vegetables. Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, the dome cannot be used this year.
Daly has been the Food Service Coordinator for six years and before that she is was the head cook. As she sees retirement down the line a bit, everyone else sees big shoes that are going to be almost impossible to fill.
Heroes shoes often are.