While COVID-19 has forced most NC State employees to shift to remote work, more than 300 University Housekeeping staff are a big part of the front-line workforce that never left campus.
And their jobs have only become more challenging as they navigate the obstacles this pandemic continues to dish out.
“They’re my superheroes,” says Ada Baldwin, director of housekeeping. “I am so proud of them for their perseverance, their courage and their selflessness because they are giving of themselves for this campus community.”
She describes how the housekeeping staff has ramped up their efforts without complaint, even when tackling more rigorous work and added responsibilities. Not to mention the risk each of them takes every day to clean public spaces in the midst of a global health pandemic.
“People don’t understand,” Baldwin says as she chokes back tears. “They mean so much, each and every one of them. And I think about them coming out here at 4 o’clock in the morning, when they come at night, and working on weekends.
“There are just so many different things they’re dealing with in their own lives, and they continue to push through. They just never stop.”
A Jump Start
Before the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in North Carolina, the housekeeping administrative team had started preparing for the pandemic.
In January, Deputy Assistant Director Taft Waldon revised cleaning protocols in partnership with Environmental Health and Safety and researched additional disinfectants. Housekeeping then ordered personal protective equipment and extra supplies, and trained employees on new procedures.
Those included increasing how often high-touch surfaces such as door handles, light switches, sink faucets and restrooms are disinfected. Housekeeping also switched to a more powerful disinfectant that kills germs in just 30 seconds and is far less harmful to people and the environment.
“We were trying to be proactive to keep our staff and the campus community safe and prepared — that’s always been at the forefront,” Baldwin says. “Environmental Health and Safety, Emergency Management and Mission Continuity, and our purchasing department have all been such great partners. We could not have done it without them.
“You need that partnership to keep things going during a very difficult time, and to let the staff know we’re here — we’re not going to leave you out there by yourself.”
Now that most students have left campus and undergraduate courses are being held online, the housekeeping staff faces uncertainty, Baldwin says. But she is quick to add that the university is working hard to support them.
Facilities Associate Vice Chancellor Doug Morton and Senior Director Andy Snead have been “such great advocates for us,” Baldwin says. They’ve been conducting town hall meetings to talk with the housekeeping staff about how they and other administrators are trying to figure out ways staff can continue to work.
She also cites Charlie Maimone, vice chancellor for finance and administration, and Donna McGalliard, executive director of university housing, as advocates and partners.
“Everyone has shown how much they care,” Baldwin says. “We’re really fortunate.”
In lieu of the large, festive gathering usually held each year to celebrate International Housekeeping Week, housekeeping leadership paid tribute to their staff on Sept. 14 through virtual events packed with glowing testimonials from folks all over campus.
They include stories of housekeeping staff helping students in need, keeping research labs safe, and according to one parent, maintaining “a dorm so pristine it was cleaner than the hotel room we stayed in.”
Below are excerpts from videos by the three housekeeping regional leaders that shed light on the invaluable work of their staff.
- Vincent Taylor, Region 2: “You have displayed genuine care for those who needed you most during COVID-19. Thank you for your long shifts and dedication to being on the front line. Thank you for providing exceptional service, and most importantly, thank you for going above and beyond each and every day. You are true heroes, and we appreciate your sacrifices more than words can say.”
- Tony Harrison, Region 3: “While the pandemic continues to cripple the economy around us, you continue to persevere. We’re here on campus as a result of your efforts. And we’ll come out on the other side [of the pandemic] better prepared as a result of your hard work.
- Taft Waldron, Region 1: “You create opportunities for learning to go on here at NC State, you create opportunities for research to be conducted here that benefits the nation and the world, you create opportunities for our students to get their degrees. Thank you for all you do.”
Thank Your Housekeeper
If you’d like to thank a housekeeper in your building but don’t know how to reach them or aren’t on campus, contact the housekeeping zone manager for your building.
“It’s been tough this year,” says Zone Manager Hezekiah Henry. “We are cleaning for health, and health is on the line. Showing that you care makes a difference. A sincere thank-you goes a long way.”
This post was originally published in NC State News.