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From Employees

These Yankton employees have found fulfillment and self worth in their workplaces while bringing value to their employers.

Jeremy Mehlhaff

Employee at Kopetsky's Ace Hardware



     Jeremy Mehlhaff looks forward to his job at Kopetsky’s Ace Hardware. Every Monday and Friday, customers can find him there attending to his janitorial duties. Of all the places he’s worked previously, Mehlhaff says he “prefers Ace.”

     Mehlhaff has various responsibilities at the local hardware store, including taking out the trash, cleaning the restrooms, vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting. He completes each task with a smile, working in every area of the store systematically by fulfilling his duties in the same order each day. He works until he has attended to all of his responsibilities, then always asks if there’s anything else he can do before punching out. 

     While Mehlhaff completes his work efficiently, he isn’t focused on quitting time. His favorite part of working at Ace are the positive relationships he has built with his coworkers and boss. Mehlhaff says, “My boss, Kenny [Kopetsky], is nice,” and he always looks forward to “seeing coworkers.” 

     Reflecting back to the beginning, Mehlhaff recalls a written application and subsequent interview, but since then, all training has been one-on-one. And though he’s followed the same daily routine at Ace for a number of years, if Mehlhaff does have a question about his duties, he knows all he has to do is “ask Kenny.” 

     With the support of his manager, Mehlhaff feels successful at a job he loves, and in turn, he says he offers the hardware store, “The best I can be.” 


Kari Steinert

Employee at Walmart



     Kari Steinert says there’s a “rhythm to Walmart,” and she’s spent the last 23 years working to it. She has transitioned through a local store upgrade and witnessed various other changes, yet Walmart’s rhythm has kept much the same beat over two decades. 

     In fact, Steinert’s job is centered upon a routine she knows well. During the span of a three to four hour shift, which she works a couple of times per week, Steinert follows a familiar route through the store. First, she picks up a cart at the front door, and then uses it to retrieve garbage and hangers from registers. After she’s visited all the registers, Steinert stops by the meat department and produce to empty their garbage. Finally, she makes her way to the back to recycle boxes and crush hangers. If time allows, she straightens the fitting rooms. Though this list of chores might appear to others as “work,” Steinert says she’s simply “helping out.” After all, she clarified, “It’s not work. Walmart is family.” 

     And like family should, helping one another goes both ways. If Steinert has any questions, she knows all she has to do is ask her boss for clarification. She also can reference either a spreadsheet with her responsibilities or a graphic of those duties in picture form. She says, “Walmart is always there for me.” 

Steinert enjoys the company Christmas parties, and she has also been honored for her service to the company. She appreciates being included in everything, and her coworkers are so important to her that Steinert goes into work early on Fridays to attend the 2 p.m. break time before her shift begins. She looks forward to the extra time spent among people she considers family.  Describing Walmart in one word, she smiles broadly and says, “It’s classic.” 


Neal Schaefer

Employee at Hy-Vee



     Neal Schaefer will tell anyone that he’s “one of many good employees.” It’s that humility and genuine spirit of helping that has propelled Schaefer through a few decades in the grocery industry. Thirteen of those years have been spent at Yankton’s Hy-Vee, where Schaefer still works 18 to 24 hours per week as a member of the courtesy staff. 

     Schaefer’s schedule is posted on Tuesdays, and he makes arrangements to either walk or ride the local Transit bussing service to Hy-Vee on his workdays. Once he punches in, the assistant manager lets him know what’s on the agenda for the day. Schaefer’s duties include many different things, such as: stacking groceries, emptying garbage in the entries and at the registers, bagging groceries, mopping, tidying the men’s restroom, or pushing carts in from the parking lot whether rain or shine. 

     If Schaefer completes all his duties, he will always ask the assistant manager in his department what else he can do, and no matter what, he’s happy to help. His dedication and consistency definitely ensure that his employee review sessions go very well. In fact, in 2007, Schaefer recalls being selected as the employee of the year, an honor he appreciates to this day.  With a smile, he summarizes his hard work and fondness for his job by saying, “I just like to bag groceries.”


William VanHeest

Employee at A'Viands Dining Services



     William VanHeest is no stranger to A’Viands Dining Services at Mount Marty College. He’s spent the last 11 years operating the commercial dishwasher there and keeping the dining room tidy. 

     While VanHeest’s favorite part of the job is “getting paid,” he is also proud of the fact that he is “the only one who [cleans] the mats.” He adds that cleaning the mats is a job for a strong person as they’re quite heavy. When speaking about any of his duties at the college dining service, VanHeest smiles. He arrives at 8:30 a.m. on his work days and get the dishwasher ready to go before checking on the dining room and setting up in there. He also makes sure the floors are kept clean. “It keeps me busy,” he adds.

     VanHeest appreciates face-to-face communication. If he has a question, he goes directly to his manager, Mitch Pinkelman, or, if the dishwashing equipment isn’t working, he sometimes has to place a call to maintenance. He feels the challenging part of the job to “keep the dishes clean and stay ahead of everything” is both challenging and rewarding.

The best part of working in a campus dining environment? Making sure the students who come through the line are happy with their experience. “If they don’t smile,” VanHeest says, “I motivate them and try to keep ‘em on their toes.”