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Garber Award 2021

Manchester custodial staff wins Garber Staff Member of the Year Award 

After an unprecedented year, Manchester University took the unprecedented step of naming the entire custodial staff as this year’s recipient of the Christopher W. Garber Staff Member of the Year Award.

“This is an individual award, and it will continue to be in the future. But the selection committee wholeheartedly agreed that, in this of all years, we should make an exception,” said President Dave McFadden.

“You are our heroes,” he said after presenting the award to the staff in an outdoor ceremony, a sentiment echoed by an extended standing ovation by faculty and staff.

“Our custodial staff deserves our gratitude and recognition every day, every year. But we would be remiss if we did not thank them – profoundly and wholeheartedly – for their service and dedication for these past 17 months,” McFadden said.

The award recognizes a staff member who demonstrates a commitment every day to Manchester. It is given for providing excellent customer service while leading peers and collaborating across departments. The recipient is reliable, respected by co-workers and loyal to the University. This person is a problem-solver with a positive attitude who encourages other staff members along the way.

When many people were able to go home for the lockdown in the spring of 2020, the custodial crew didn’t have that luxury. They continued to show up every day to clean for the students and colleagues who remained on the university’s North Manchester and Fort Wayne campuses. 

McFadden described it this way:
Like the rest of us, they had families they worried about, children who needed care or supervision with online school, loved ones whose jobs were suddenly less secure.
Some custodial staff self-quarantined after working their shift because they were afraid they would expose their families at home to the virus. Others worked every day on campus and also were caregivers to elderly family members.  
Life didn’t get any easier for them when students returned last fall. 
The custodial staff worked in pods – or small groups – for the entire year. The idea being that each pod would avoid close contact with other pods, and we could avoid having the entire department in quarantine at the same time.

“Even that arrangement was challenging,” McFadden said.  “There were times when up to six members of a team were in quarantine. The rest of the team quickly adjusted their schedules and picked up the pieces.”

They worked extra hours. Residence hall and dining hall bathrooms needed to be cleaned twice a day, seven days a week. All custodians took turns working weekends, usually in teams of two to four. In addition to staggered shifts, some worked split shifts to ensure there were staff to work at dinnertime.

The custodial staff was responsible for cleaning the student isolation and quarantine rooms, the bathrooms, and making sure rooms were ready for the next students in quarantine or isolation. When a student tested positive for COVID-19, custodians cleaned the restrooms in the hall where the student lived wearing PPE – personal protective equipment – including full body gowns and face shields. 

“Their tasks were more difficult than we might imagine,” McFadden said. “They cleaned classrooms between every class, while still maintaining their regular duties. Cleaning bathrooms and stairwells while wearing masks was physically difficult. Because our dining services used disposables for the entire year, there was a huge increase in the volume of trash in all of our buildings. Sometimes, their hands and arms would ache from constantly spraying disinfectant.”

This is the sixth year for the Garber Award. Chris Garber, for whom this award is named, oversaw the Physical Plant at the time of his death in 2015. 

For the media

Cutline information: Custodial members after the award are (from left): Erin Allison, Kasey Pennington, Kody Shoemaker, Tanya Hartsock, Amy Hendrix, Heidi Fairchild, Oksana Carter, Megan Flinn, Missy Barrus, Dora Beck, Brandon Giddens, Amy Lloyd and Joel Murray.

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September 2021