The Heroes of Everyday Life® program was created to honor Sodexo employees who have demonstrated exemplary service to others in the fight against hunger. The Annual Application Period is November 1 - February 15. 


We are extremely proud of our Heroes of Everyday Life. View a video about what it takes to be a Hero! 

Donald Hawkins

Executive Chef, Shenandoah University

Winchester, VA

15 years with Sodexo


Chef Donnie has a heart for hungry people, especially those who need a fresh start. He started volunteering with DC Central Kitchens when he worked as a chef at George Washington University. There, he also trained and mentored displaced workers and people with disabilities. Eleven years ago, he brought his passion to Shenandoah University, implementing a student-run Food Recovery Network chapter and supporting numerous food drives. By teaching student volunteers about food safety, storage and packaging – and training more displaced workers – he’s continued to bring new people into the kitchen. During COVID-related staffing challenges, he made a special effort to recruit and train youth, filling key positions. He and his staff also delivered comforting meals to students in quarantine. Always focused on food waste, he ensures extra food finds its way to local nonprofits and shelters. “A lot of people don’t realize how much homelessness and hunger there is in their backyard,” he says. “Some people have just fallen on hard times and they’re prideful.” That’s why he’s always happy to offer the dignity of a good job. It’s what his mother taught him – be kind and never look down on anyone. “You never know the burden others might carry.”


Sue Sussman         

Senior Project Manager, Healthcare, Tri-State Region

Westchester County, NY

34 years with Sodexo


If Sue ever seems a little tired in the morning, she has the best excuse – she was on a “run” the night before, delivering meals to Manhattan’s homeless. She has volunteered with the nonprofit Midnight Run for 15 years and now serves as board president. The group organizes more than 200 groups – students, church members and volunteers – to provide meals, toiletries, clothing and blankets to those in need. She also serves as communications chair for the Sodexo employee business resource group i-Gen and enlists her co-workers in fighting hunger. Inspired by Bill Clinton’s book “Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World,she started by collecting donations at work meetings. She loves volunteering because she knows she makes a difference in the lives of about 60 people every time she does a run. “Our mission is not to fix homelessness,” she says. “I don’t have that solution. But that night that person was fed and got a clean pair of socks.” She does hope one of her many student volunteers is inspired to someday devise a broader solution. “It starts with getting this generation out on the streets to see these are regular people out there.”


Denise Dickson

Kitchen Manager, Putnam City Academy School

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

4 years with Sodexo

Denise knows the power of a warm meal and helping hand. She was homeless for a time in her 20s and “so many people helped me out. Total strangers,” she says. “I always knew I would give back.” Now, she’s keeping that promise. Every Friday night, after feeding school kids all week, she heads for Mini-Max grocery, where the owner donates supplies to feed hundreds of homeless people. Next, she starts cooking. Around 2 a.m. – after a nap – she starts rolling up delicious burritos, filled with meat and organic veggies. By 6:30 a.m., she and her fellow volunteers are at City Care Night Shelter, sharing meals, clothes, toiletries and hugs. Denise started her nonprofit, Ebeneezer’s Open Door Kitchen, during the pandemic in 2020. Worried homeless people were going hungry, she and a friend started distributing sandwiches. And her plans kept growing. She wants to get a food truck, to serve more locations. She also wants to buy a shuttered school building to provide housing, job training and counseling, working with her church and other organizations. “I’m not just there to feed people,” she says. “I’m there to feed their spirits, as well. I want to get them back into society.”


Pat Whitley

General Manager Multi Service 1

Randolph Health, Asheboro, NC

10 years with Sodexo

For years, Pat satisfied her passion for feeding hungry people through her church, which even housed a small homeless shelter. But when the organization disbanded in 2016, she and her husband struggled to find a like-minded group focused on helping locals. “Our passion was here at home,” she says. So, they started their own ministry, Nailed 4 You, outfitting a flatbed trailer with a grill to serve grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Using their own funds, they soon upgraded to a mobile kitchen. Now, they spend weekends feeding hundreds of hungry people at a low-income senior housing development and on the streets. Their friends from church are their volunteer crew. “It’s a team effort,” Pat says. They also sell food at markets and fairs to raise money for the cause, educate the public on hunger and work with other groups to collect food, clothing and blankets. Over the years, they’ve established some lovely relationships with people they feed, Pat says. Her faith inspires her mission. But, she says, “We’re not pushing what we believe on anyone. We’re just showing them love, giving them food. Most everyone loves food, so when you offer them food, it opens up the door.”


Henry Tapia

General Manager

Huntsville Independent School District, Huntsville, Texas

22 years with Sodexo


Families in Huntsville, Texas, get happy when they see the “Green Hornet” coming. Because the old school bus, transformed into a full-service kitchen by Chef Henry and his friends, is full of good food. “A lot of the kids know our names, but they call us all Chef!” says Henry, of the students they feed over the summer and during breaks. “It’s really enjoyable to get out and talk to people.” Henry has a big crew to help; many of them met in culinary school. They also do other volunteer work together, helping anyone in need. They take food on golf carts into communities where the bus can’t drive, like mobile home parks. And they have driven the bus to feed people in areas hit by hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and floods. (They even outfitted it with a customized lift for rough terrain.) Henry is famous for his “Texas stick burner” smoked barbecue, stuffed into pulled pork and sliced brisket sandwiches. He’s always looking for ways to care for his school “babies,” some of whom have parents incarcerated at the nearby prison. “I try to pay attention as much as possible. They feel comfortable coming to me if they have concerns.”


View all Heroes.