From schools and college campuses to office buildings and healthcare facilities, custodians are on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic ensuring all areas are cleaned, sanitized and disinfected. Day in and day out, they show up to work to keep environments clean and the people who work, reside in and visit these facilities safe and healthy. Prior to this global crisis, many people did not carefully consider the effort that goes into keeping facilities clean and the tasks that custodians perform each day. These workers were seen but often not celebrated. And yet, they are incredibly deserving of recognition. As the world continues to battle COVID-19, it is critical to recognize the hard work that custodians do and the importance of maintaining cleanliness in facilities.
For the last seven years, Cintas Corporation has honored the best-of-the-best among school custodians with its annual Cintas Custodian of the Year contest. This campaign was created to shine a spotlight on hardworking custodians in K-12 and college environments and give them the recognition they deserve. Cintas receives thousands of nominations each year and selects ten finalists from across the country to compete for votes. The custodian who receives the most votes is declared the winner and awarded an impressive prize package.
On April 27, Cintas Corporation crowned Howell Beasley of Albertville Kindergarten & Pre-K the 2020 Cintas Custodian of the Year. Howell received a cash prize of $10,000 and the school received $5,000 in cleaning products and services. He will also benefit from a comprehensive training and development package from ISSA, The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, valued at $20,000. ISSA and its various divisions, including the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), work to change the way the world views cleaning.
Due to the extenuating circumstances, Albertville Kindergarten & Pre-K had to find creative alternatives to celebrate Howell’s win. Instead of inviting the entire school to a surprise assembly, the principal and superintendent met with Howell at the school and announced the news to staff via video conferencing. The principal also coordinated a surprise social distance parade for Howell and invited all students and parents to drive by to give their congratulations.
During the pandemic, many custodians are working long hours each day to ensure that high–touch surfaces such as desks, light switches, handrails and even walls in schools and other facilities are properly cleaned and disinfected. In some cases, custodians are transcending their job description of maintaining cleanliness. After all, we haven’t seen a pandemic like this in our lifetime and the stakes are high.
According to the Montreal Gazette, a custodian at a senior living facility has been offering his personal cell phone for FaceTime sessions so a mother residing at the facility and her daughter can stay in touch during the lockdown. He then took over cooking duties when the head chef became ill with COVID-19.
Another custodian is finding happiness by protecting the vulnerable in New York’s Bellevue Hospital. He’s the first to sign on for full shifts on his day off and when he is working, he’s often skipping his breaks so he can continue to keep the facility clean and do his part to protect essential workers.
These are just a few examples of how custodians are going above and beyond during challenging times. There are many other inspiring stories that showcase the strong work ethic of these cleaning professionals.
Custodians are typically the unsung heroes of their facilities, working behind the scenes to protect others. Unfortunately, cleaning roles often do not pay high salaries, despite the extreme importance of cleanliness. There is high turnover in the industry and people often move on to other roles that provide more opportunities for growth.
As the pandemic stretches on, conversations around cleaning are increasing and their essential work is being noticed. In Nashville, doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center raised nearly $7,000 within 48 hours for janitorial and custodial staff.
Meanwhile, a Vermont community rallied behind its school district’s custodial staff as they completed a two-day cleaning spree to sanitize every building. A GoFundMe campaign surpassed $7,000 in just four days.
When the world overcomes coronavirus and people are able to return to schools, offices and other facilities, remember that it wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the custodial team. They’ve taken on new duties and worked tirelessly to keep building occupants and visitors safe, which is why it’s important to recognize custodians not only during the pandemic, but every day. You’d be surprised how transformative a heartfelt “thank you” can be for custodians working tirelessly to keep facilities clean.
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Jessie Koerner is a Senior Account Executive at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. She has a deep passion for media relations and content creation.