ANGOLA, N.Y. — A cafeteria worker is doing a bit more than serving warm meals and smiles to students this holiday season.
Linda Kibler has worked for Lake Shore Senior High School for 21 years. For about the past decade, she’s been creating seasonal displays for the entire school community to enjoy. It started small, but quickly grew to decorate a good portion of the cafeteria.
"We walk into lunch, she always has a smile on her face, she's very positive and she's super sweet," Carlene Dils, a senior at Lake Shore said of Kibler. Dils and her friends added that they love the display and taking photos with their friends in front of it.
When Kibler isn’t behind the register, she’s using left over boxes and materials that would typically be discarded from the cafeteria and turns them into life-size displays.
This winter, the 15 geese hanging from the ceiling were made from old croissant boxes, painted by hand with detail in each of the feathers. Above the serving stands were "snow" lunch ladies made from white lunch bags. The main scene is a forest featuring the Grinch, snowmen, and whimsical woodland characters.
"I love doing it. It just warms my heart to create things and it brings a lot of joy to people and it's so bland without decorations," Kibler said. "As long as I got boxes that I can get out of the dumpster, I'm good."
Kibler, a product of local public schools herself, was only formally trained in art through a BOCES program. She says the talent she has is just natural, she really enjoys drawing and creating. She uses her own paints and art supplies decorate the recycled goods.
"The first year we did this, they [the students] walked in here and they were just like 'I don't want to leave here, it's a happy place' and it just brings you so much joy," Kibler said about her students' reactions. "If you can get people to smile, especially at this time of year, we're doing good."
This year, Kibler’s work captivated people far beyond Lake Shore’s walls. High School Principal Christine Koch shared images of Kibler and her display online. Then, Connor Kwilos, a 2017 graduate, shared the image on Reddit where it went viral, accumulating over 175,000 views to date.
Kwilos and other community members wanted to support Kibler's efforts in the years to come. In only the first five days of fundraising on GoFundMe, the community raised $375 for her art supplies. The original goal was $200.
WGRZ was there on Tuesday, Dec 10 when her manager, Debbie Becker, told her the news. Kibler was excited and surprised at the kind gesture the students made.
"Oh my goodness! I don't have to use my little dried up old paint no more," Kibler said, laughing.