Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2011

McDonald’s throwing retirement party celebrating employee’s more than 20 years of service

She’s the hardest working person I’ve ever seen’

Teresa Balawen, a familiar face at the McDonald’s restaurant at Sixth and Michigan streets, will retire today after working at the location for more than 20 years. Balawen’s co-workers laud her work ethic and she is popular with the customers, who often recognize her outside of the restaurant.

Teresa Balawen, a familiar face at the McDonald’s restaurant at Sixth and Michigan streets, will retire today after working at the location for more than 20 years. Balawen’s co-workers laud her work ethic and she is popular with the customers, who often recognize her outside of the restaurant.

March 31, 2011


Teresa Balawen may be only 4-foot-9 with tiny feet, but when she retires from McDonald’s today, she’s leaving big shoes to fill.

Balawen, 78, has been a familiar face in the lobby of McDonald’s, 1309 W. Sixth St., for decades. Now, after more than 20 years working in the kitchen and keeping the lobby spick-and-span, she’s retiring to spend time at home with her husband. The restaurant will host a retirement party for her from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday afternoon. The public is welcome to attend.

“I will miss many people here,” she said.

Balawen came to the United States in the early 1990s from the Philippines. Her daughter, Norma Schmidt, had moved to Lawrence and brought her mother here. Soon after arriving, she started in the kitchen at McDonald’s, making salads and parfaits.

“She didn’t like it the first time,” Schmidt said.

That sentiment changed quickly, though, and people started to recognize Balawen. In the last decade, she moved full-time to cleaning the lobby, which store manager Janet Donner said was always spotless.

“We don’t ever worry about the lobby,” Donner said. “You know it’s taken care of.”

Balawen’s work ethic and dependability was recognized, and she made an impression on customers.

“She’s the hardest working person I’ve ever seen,” said one man in passing.

Schmidt said when she goes to the store with her mother, people will often stop them to say hi. One time, it even happened when they were at a hospital for a checkup.

“She knows more people than me,” Schmidt said.

Donner said there is a large group of regulars who drink coffee there every morning.

“I don’t know how they’re going to react not having Teresa here,” Donner said. “She’s great with the customers.”

She’s also great with her job. Many of the kitchen workers affectionately call her “Mama” and help her lift heavy loads. Aletia Vaughn, a human resources supervisor, said that one time she spilled while filling her cup and tried to wipe it up. Balawen was there before she had a chance, and the mess was cleaned.

“Her smile makes my morning,” Vaughn said.

Balawen is retiring at the urging of her family. She will stay home and care for her 80-year-old husband, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Schmidt said her mother loves to garden and hopes that will keep her occupied.

“She might get bored. She likes being with people,” Schmidt said. “In the Philippines, you have neighbors all over.”

Balawen knows she’ll visit the restaurant regularly after retiring, and she’ll see employees and customers who love her.

“I will miss many people here,” she said. “I have many friends.”


thuja 7 years ago

Employees is plural, employee's is possessive, but neither seems to make sense in the headline.

Curtis Lange 7 years ago

Yes, it does. They are talking about a single employee's 20 years of service with the company.

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

This article is not necessary as you think but it is important to her co workers who showed them the value of work and the love of working that is lacking in our society today. Too bad you see it that way, but anyway it is not the people's money being used , not like other people who wants government money hand out all the time, at least she worked for a living and not depend on the government for help. You don't need to have entitlement to be considered great. Sad you see it that way.

johnnymercer 7 years ago

Sounds like a great woman. Hard working friendly people are few and far between.

-thuja: Employee's is correctly used. It takes possession of the word 'service.'

CHEEZIT 7 years ago

Really!!! So it would be better if she workied 20 years at a five star restaurant? What difference does it make? In this day and age that's a big accomplishment. In 35 years of working I've only had three jobs. That's a 15 year average. Can you say that? I don't know her personally but have seen her in the McDonald's and always thought she did a good job and that's really all that matters!

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

35 (years of working) divided by 3 (years at each job) = 11 2/3 (year average).

CHEEZIT 7 years ago

Woops I hit the wrong number!

Steve Miller 7 years ago

WGAS jhawk, who's counting beans .. it's a great accomplishemnt.

George_Braziller 7 years ago

I worked at the same organization for 22 years. My 20 year anniversary passed without notice. Thought I'd at least get a card.

Nope. Nothing.

roggy 7 years ago

Maybe you'll get one when you retire.

George_Braziller 7 years ago

Not from that place. I resigned three years ago because the Executive Director was an idiot and I just had to get away from her.

A year later she was suddenly gone after a one week "notice" that she was leaving. That was the spin version she gave so she didn't have to say she had been canned.

Chris Ogle 7 years ago

Sounds like a great person to me.

“I will miss many people here,” she said. “I have many friends.”

Congrats Teresa Balawen!!!!!

Bob Forer 7 years ago

More McDonald's hypocrisy. They pay her a few dimes an hour above minimum wage for her long term service, and then "splurge" on a retirement party complete with a nutritious Big Mac and fries.

SinoHawk 7 years ago

You have no idea what the owners of this McDonalds have chosen to pay Mrs. Balawen, nor can you justify the term "hypocrisy". All we know is that Mrs. Balawen has been loyal to her employer for 20 years, which is quite an accomplishment.

Bob Forer 7 years ago

You have no idea how idiotic your comment is. The folks who own McDonalds locally have several franchises and have a very sophisticated business plan, including written policy on wages and raises. Trust me, she was probably being paid no more than a few dimes above minimum wage. I know.

Absent evidence, why would you claim otherwise.

I guess you have a love for big corporations who exploit elderly women. I bet you are one of those people who envy the rich, and would drop your morals (assuming you have any in the first place) in a New York minute to exploit hundreds of poor and uneducated workers to satisfy your unmitigated greed.

You are obviously a piece of work.

booyalab 7 years ago

So you're saying if McDonald's was a sole proprietorship she would be paid more to clean the lobby? Or have you not taken your hysterics to its logical conclusion?

MyName 7 years ago

Well she started work there at age 57 or 58 and I'm guessing she just wanted to work rather than stay at home to take care of one or two people. Exactly what kind of job should an older immigrant with a H.S. Diploma or less be working?

That being said, it sounds like she enjoyed her work okay and many people liked her, which is more than can be said for many people who have a higher paying job.

love2fish_ks 7 years ago

Hogwash. Pay should be based on the job that is performed. Pay based on longevity and not market forces is what the Gov't does. If someone doesn't like their pay the choice is easy. LEAVE. or increase marketability with skills that is demanded by the market.

This employee in the article should be recognized for her commitment, dedication, and hard work. Longevity on the job is due to her liking the job and the offering from her employer for employment.

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

Not actually Mcdonald's hypocrisy, it is more of the managers liking Teresa that they are doing it . Don't worry about her pay, that should be her problem, it is not above minimum wage as you think and actually bigger corporations have lower pay than she was getting. The Dobski's treat her very well so with her managers and everybody and that MATTERS to her,

deec 7 years ago

Your posts don't really make any sense. For example, what you wrote above is that she is not making above minimum wage. So she worked there 20 years and still makes minimum wage? Punctuation and grammar are your friends.

Greg Counts 7 years ago

God bless Teresa, it's quite an accomplishment in a society that throws employees away after 5 years. Sorry for the idiots previous and hope you and you're husband live long lives together.

Tom Atchity 7 years ago


When I was at KU, the 6th Street McDonalds was my big stop on test days. I am not one for McD's all that often, but the 6th street location was always great, and Teresa is a sweet lady.

Enjoy some quiet time!

xtronics 7 years ago

Teresa is my mother-in-law.

There is something to be learned here if you look a little deeper. In the Philippines she was unable to get a job - they had real unemployment there (not just preferring to be unemployed) - and to work at McDonnalds in the Philippines requires a college degree - no I'm not joking. She has real pride in her work for a reason.

To some here a job at McDonald's is demeaning, but that is only because we are presently quite spoiled as a culture. If people here were more traveled and understood economic history better, they might realize that in not too many years, once the money printing folly stops, a real job that produces real wealth, will again be something to be sought after and treasured - just as it has been for Teresa.

It is sad that her attitude, something that was once a common American trait, is now so unusual it is worth a newspaper story. Instead we have a culture that is increasingly focused on seeking unearned wealth.

Not everyone gets as nice and sweet a mother-in-law as I have had.. I consider myself quite lucky.

SinoHawk 7 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing your story! It breaks my heart when Americans consider good, hard work beneath themselves. Taking pride in one's work is one of the things that made America great. I know that my forebearers would not be pleased if I took my job for granted.

Bob Forer 7 years ago

It breaks my heart when good hard work is not rewarded with honest and decent pay.

xtronics 7 years ago

TheSychophant -

Under capitalism ( which BOTH parties abandoned over the last decade or so ), no one enters an exchange of labor for money unless both parties think they end up better off. It is only under socialism that people are coerced into such arrangements.

Your negative outlook is now the common zero-sum world view. Not to be able to see that there are other ways to get ahead other than taking unearned wealth from others must be a miserable life. I truly feel sorry for you.

lawrencekansan 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing. I have been to the McDonalds a couple of times and on those occasions I have seen her working diligently to keep the dining area spotless. She does a great job and she is always very friendly with the patrons. I wish her all the best!

ResQd 7 years ago

Alot of idiots on this forum that have nothing but negative things to say about everything. Sometimes I wonder about them. In any case, congratulations to your mother-in-law, and if she were mine, I would be very proud of her. Give her a big hug for me.

CamianArik 7 years ago

Both myself and my mother worked with Teresa for several years. She will be greatly missed as both a friendly face and a hard worker. You deserve the rest my friend. Indeed, your shoes will be hard to fill.

Sharon Aikins 7 years ago

Congratulations, Teresa, on your retirement! Enjoy and be proud of a job well done. It doesn't matter where but how well you did it and it sounds like you were a 5 star employee.

Kontum1972 7 years ago

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

congrats Theresa

I remember when my grandparents became american citizens i was there in the U.S. Courtroom.

greenquarter 7 years ago

I remember Teresa well from my 4 years of working at McDonald's during college. She was unfailingly upbeat (despite a language barrier that surely frustrated her at times), always, always, always smiling, and by far the hardest worker on any given shift. I'm so glad she's getting the recognition she deserves!!! Also, a shout-out to store manager Janet Donner, a wonderful manager and a delightful person.

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

Congratulations Mom i always proud of you I love you always...

cj123 7 years ago

Not all people who work in a minimum wage job are unhappy. I know plenty of unhappy, upper-middle class workers who hate their jobs. I worked in fast food for many, many years and it was not awful; it was actually quite fun. It was my decision to work there, not anyone else's. Yes, I didn't make very much money but I was able to afford my bills. Why does it matter to people why she worked at McDonald's for 20 years? Who cares? She seems happy, healthy, and has a family who care about her!. That is all that matters! Plus, she got to interact with people everyday (much better than sitting in a cubice all day). I would rather a happy, poor person than a rich, miserable person!

Shardwurm 7 years ago

Working at a fast food place is like teaching:

If you're in it for the money you're an idiot.

flux 7 years ago

Its not what you do but how you do it

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

Correct my mom work in McDonald for almost 20yrs for her Hard work there is my mom paid off her house here in Lawrence every time she always say i don't like to retired i love to work there she always mom always say HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY...

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

To Vertigo---typical put down mentality.

Oh--I guess my mom didn't , but I think that is not the topic in here. Is there anything you can say about yourself that you can be proud of ? At least my mom works hard for a living ,if she didn't teach me about grammar, it's not of your concern---I guess sour grapes I say. At least she can talk a little English beside her language, I hope you can speak another language too.

cj123 7 years ago

Your mom sounds like an awesome lady. Try to ignore the negative comments. People are usually only negative if they are unhappy with their own lives. The only way to make themselves feel better is to bring others down!

cj123 7 years ago

vertigo-u need some luvin in your life! hugs and kisses from me to u!!!

cj123 7 years ago

Your welcome! Everybody likes hugs and kisses!

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

That is the point Vertigo, I'm not good in English but why include my mother about my English, she doesn't have anything to do with it , if you asked me. There is another way of saying you don't understand my English writing with out mentioning her in the comment.. My mom taught me how to write in perfect sentences BUT in her native language, not in English , because she herself doesn't know the language very well.

Yes, I get it, but you being an English speaker can use a better way of saying that you don't understand my English writing with out mentioning my mother. It's good to comment but address the issue to the direct person , which is me . Oh well--I don't know much English but i still see that as an insult to my mother. Thank you for your comments though, makes things interesting I guess.

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

To Vertigo, my hug for you in case you need it, peace.

Linda Endicott 7 years ago

It sounds to me as if your mother passed on some very wonderful qualities to you...and if perfect English wasn't one of them, don't worry about it...that's not nearly as important as honesty, being a hard worker, and being loyal and proud of what you do...which are some of the things your mother gave to you...

Don't listen to the grammar police here...some of the people who comment on here and have lived in this country and spoken English all their lives don't have nearly as good a command of that language as they think they do...and if you and your mother can both speak and write in two languages, that's impressive to me...I only know English, and a smattering of words here and there from French and Spanish...

Good luck to your mother, and I wish her and your family happiness and joy...

deec 7 years ago

Golly, I thought we were supposed to despise people who don't speak perfect English the minute they set foot on American soil. Or is that just for Spanish speakers? End sarcasm.

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

deec--Yah, I should have known that and not get offended, hahah---JUST KIDDING Maybe next time I read a comment like that , it should not get over my head, but I guess if it concerns my mom I get defensive, not a good idea though.

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

Okay, you want to be a teacher for my lousy writing, good for you and thank you. Why not look also on your word don't above, it should have an apostrophe between n and t. Also thats, it should have an apostrophe between t and s, because you are trying to combine the t and s to make it shorter. Also wouldnt should be wouldn't .

You said that you are trying to make a dialogue, not really, in my own opinion , you are trying to check on my sentences which is not your place. If I read a comment anywhere and I don't understand, I just presume the person is not very good in the language and trying maybe. If I want to tell the person I can't get what she/he means, I can addressed it directly to that person, not including somebody that is not really necessary. So, I can go tell all kids I know , even native English speakers that are not really good in grammar--hey-I guess your mom didn't teach you to write, supposing the mom doesn't know the language herself. There is a better way to write what you commented with out including my mom, even if she is the topic in the article. Most people actually appreciate being educated or learn but it depends on how you approach the person you are trying or wanting to educate. If that is your style to educate, no thank you , I'm not interested to learn from you . Thanks anyway.

Linda Endicott 7 years ago

Sure. I got it. Even without all the periods. I had no problem at all in understanding you. I don't agree with you, but I understood it perfectly.

But you're not going to increase much dialogue with anyone if you constantly come across as insulting them...

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

Crazyks, thank you very much for your nice and kind words , I really appreciate it. My American brother in law exactly said the same thing you said on your second paragraph. Good luck to you also and wish you happiness and your family. We were actually surprised that her bosses did the party for her, all I can think was, she really touched their lives not only because she worked very hard despite her age but always cheerful everyday to do her work. Many kids at work call her mama. I think it means a lot to her even maybe with out the publicity.

Jimo 7 years ago

And to think that the Koch Bros. will loot from the Treasury more money in one minute than this woman earned in 20 years of hard work! Only in America.

Mike Hatch 7 years ago

Sounds like a great lady. Any job is worth doing right and having pride in doing it well, which it sounds like she's done and then some.

Georgine McHenry 7 years ago

Congrats! Nothing wrong with honest work. I bet she has some great stories to tell also!

Judgesmails 7 years ago

Congrats to this hard working lady!

All you haters turning this into a negative are never happy.

goodcountrypeople 7 years ago

This is a lovely tribute to a hard worker and dedicated employee, just don't see how the locals can't understand that many feel violated by the aggressive and often frighteningly incompetent way yahoo types try, as even referenced in this article, to "help" others. In my experience such efforts are often unwelcome, incredibly frightening, and demeaning. Those who so badly frighten others without even realizing certainly aren't sensitive and aware people who look at others as individuals and precious human beings. Such mindlessness is simply not welcome in my life. It's a brawn against brains philosophy. Guess these types been self-servingly brainwashed and aren't up to examining their self-delusions. It feels violating--no decent sense of social and personal boundaries. It's also offensively patronizing, sexist, ageist, and ableist. Disrespectful and terrorizing to the core--scaring the bejeezus out of thinking, aware people.Guess if you don't have a brain there are only so many things you can do in this world to feel useful. The Wizard of Oz was likely written in honor of the big majority of Kansans who lack brains and hearts.People who need to be thanked to the extent they will terrorize strangers to fulfill this kinky need will get no sympathy from me though.

Had a young grocery store bagger the other day so intent on"helping" he inappropriately with no thought of asking first used the holiday gift recycle bags I was purchasing to pack my groceries-- so symbolic of what the local incompetents have subjected me to.Thanks, but no thanks. Mind your business, unless you are smart and sophisticated. You are hurting and destroying, not helping. Some decent places to live have intelligently outlawed random acts of chivalry against strangers. Wise and civilized, because who needs these predators? Please stop killing off intelligent life, kiss- to- kill haters.Only a haven for f-tards who allow this neanderthal brutality.

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

That is true Judgesmails, people who can't see anything nice or positive about the article , instead try so hard to find something negative are Never happy for sure, you can not make them happy no matter what and I'm so sad for them. I think Kathie, Diana , her other bosses are doing this, not because of just working for so long but the ATTITUDE and VALUE and LOVE of work she showed them over the years and she became a GOOD FRIEND TO THEM. Nobody forced her to work but she loves what she does all those years and especially the FRIENDSHIPS she developed from all the good people is PRICELESS--that money can't buy .. If people think that having a high income makes them happy, I'm sure she is happier than a lot of high paid people trying to chase the American lifestyle of materialism. The owner of Mcdonald's treated her very well.

countrygal07 7 years ago

Congrats. I worked many years in the fast food industry also. I enjoyed it . Some of you with the negative remarks need to remember if there wasnt people like Teresa you wouldnt be able to stop quickly for that hamburger and fries. Yea I will admit It isnt the highest paying job in the world , but It is fun and rewarding. Many times your customers give you the smile or the laugh that you need to make your day complete. Some may think working at McDonalds is horrible, however others may cherish it. Good luck in retirement. You deserve it.

woodscolt 7 years ago

best wishes to teresa and her husband

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

Don't worry my mother taught me so many things, hard work is one for sure, because I got 2 FULL TIME jobs as of the present ,so I don't need to depend on anybody else. She taught me not to take advantage of people and so on. That is true , my post is really terrible , my other SISTER even commented on it , but she didn't even mention my mom to point out my mistake. Maybe, to you personally, your comment might be okay and you can be sarcastic all you want and it is okay with some, but, if you are talking to a group with different nationalities , for sure you will offend some. In some cultures, they use jokes to insult people, they won't tell the insult directly or there might be a fight at once, so, the best way and maybe safer way to do it , is doing it in a joking way to be safe but it is actually an insult to the person. Thank you anyway----you are glad you don't live in Asia, if your nature is to be sarcastic , you will end up offending people all the time with your jokes. To me , the beauty of the English language is, you can express so many things in so many ways, in a very sarcastic way, or, most gentle way---I guess you choose the sarcastic way--but that is your nature that you said. People have different ways of expressing themselves, like you and me. We take things differently. Good discussion though---thanks.

Linda Endicott 7 years ago

She's upset with you because you insinuated that her mother didn't teach her anything...and I don't suppose many people enjoy hearing their mother being criticized...

Of all the things in the world I could pay attention to, I don't think I'm going to lose too much sleep at night worrying about run-on sentences and incorrect punctuation...since you apparently do, are there any other hobbies you could get interested in, besides criticizing others?

I had no problem understanding her posts...if you did, perhaps you have a comprehension problem...

Susan Thomas 7 years ago

Sure, that is what you think, Asians won't tell directly to you if you offend them, they just stay away from you sooner or later , you have to grow up in a certain culture to really know everything about it . Nope, I don't feel offended about the other negative comments about my mother , that is their problem because it is not really directed to her but to the owner of the company and about pay and this and that or anything they can think of . Sometimes negative publicity get more attention than a positive one anyway. Some people by nature are REALLY negative , always manage to see the worst of everything, BUT I never ENVY this people but FEEL sorry for them because I will assume, I might be right or wrong but they are not happy people. Sure, if you want to help my grammar, check your donts and other words and some commas that needs correcting also , then I can allow you to be my English teacher. Not actually bad if I make my English perfect, who doesn't want that.

I'm not angry with you, you said yourself you are sarcastic anyway.

sustainabilitysister 7 years ago

I heard her party was wonderful and had a large turnout. I don't know her but have family members that do. Congratulations to Teresa and her family! And to her loved ones that read these posts, try to ignore the negative people. I'm sorry for them.

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