Panther PAC-man

Loren Gerwick has been working the grill and keeping concessions customers well-fed at Derby High football games – and other activities – for three decades now.

Loren Gerwick has spent 32 years organizing, preparing and serving the savory foods associated with high school football games, and for him it just keeps getting better.

Gerwick, a 1973 Derby High School graduate, was working at the former Safeway when he met the couple who headed the Panther PAC.

“They were buying stuff from me [for the concessions] and recruited me to start making hamburgers and stuff,” he recalled. “Gradually I started taking over, and with my experience in the grocery business it helped me organize inside and know how much to order from game to game … because you don’t want to be out of anything.”

During football season, Gerwick spends 20 to 25 volunteer hours a week, much of it on inventory, ordering and stocking the concession facility.

“I put the inventory into my spreadsheet that computes how much I sold that week, then I start writing the next week’s orders,” he said. “I compare it to the last year’s games against the same teams to try to come up with what I need. I often keep notes on what’s going on each week with the weather, the temperatures, who we’re playing – it all makes a difference.”

Along with football, Gerwick oversees concessions for all the other sports throughout the year.

“We have JV and freshman football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, track, baseball, wrestling, and the visitor’s concession stand,” he said.

Gerwick supervises the PAC with “two ladies I can’t do without” – Teri Steadman and Kristy Lang.

“There are three of us who run this,” he said. “We’ve worked together for years.”

The money the Panther PAC makes goes back to the school.

“Around April or May we ask the athletic department and school what they want us to buy and that’s what the money goes to,” Gerwick explained. “Every year we give the athletic department between $20,000 and $40,000 in supplies. We carry over about $2,000 to buy food for the first game, and it’s just a rolling thing from there.”

The Panther PAC pays high school groups $100 to work the concessions during football games.

At other events, the offseason team members work the concessions, i.e., baseball players may work soccer or volleyball, football players might work wrestling tournaments.

“When I started [volunteering] my first child was on the way, [the concessions] were under the north bleachers in a little wooden structure with no running water, and we cooked outside underneath the bleachers,” Gerwick reminisced.

Today there is a new concession facility with a walk-in cooler, large sink, and extra space, and he and his wife have two sons and two grandchildren.

Although Gerwick enjoys all aspects of his Panther PAC position, his love of people and community really light him up.

“I still see people come around that worked here when they were in school. I see people who were here in high school and now have kids here. People I graduated with, kids that used to work for me at Safeway, are all here,” he said of game nights.

“I like being around people, seeing old friends, meeting new friends, and giving back to the school [because] the school gave a lot to me,” he said. “Coach [Paul] Evans was a mentor to me. I was the basketball manager – he always treated me fair, and I learned a lot from him about how to treat people.”