Everyday Heroes: Another category of first responders

04 November 2021

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

COVID-19 has shown us that custodians, housekeeping or environmental services – no matter what term your organization uses – are crucial to keeping us safe and healthy and our buildings operational.

Custodians have become the first responders, tasked with keeping COVID-19 from spreading. The job of a school custodian has become much more demanding, to include thorough disinfecting and cleaning more surfaces more often to protect against the virus spread. That has not gone unnoticed or without huge appreciation.

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St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary/Junior High School

Danita Power, principal at St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary Junior High School in Edmonton could not run the school without Ernesto Abarico, Greg Matusewicz, Nerlou Ibale and Jenelle Rebollido.

“Our custodial staff during the 2020-2021 school year went above and beyond to ensure that the classrooms, offices, and general use areas were sanitized and cleaned for use each day,” Power said. “Their workload increased because of the level of sanitization that was needed. When a COVID positive case was identified in a classroom, they had to do a deep clean of that space, they were dedicated to keeping the incidents of COVID down in our school.”

During the pandemic, custodians think about the countless spaces our kids touch and often they do so in a school of 900 or more kids. Custodians think about that one other thing that needs cleaning …. maybe one more time.

Olga and Manuel

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools recognized the tireless efforts of Olga and Manuel. They are grateful for their ongoing commitment to the health and safety of their staff and students in the battle against COVID-19 nominating them as one of their everyday heroes.

Olga and Manuel are part of the custodial team at St. Joseph High School. Often they are the invisible frontline workforce meeting the high cleaning demands in the fight against COVID-19 transmission.

For Olga and Manuel, it’s more than just a job. They believe their work is a true blessing from God, and they are grateful for the opportunity to do what they do. They feel like “part of family,” with a true connection to their school, and they take great passion and pride in their work.

Their passion and enthusiasm is also fuelled by their parent-perspective, knowing they have a responsibility to protect those within their school community, and take an active role in the front line of defense with enhanced cleaning protocols, sometimes taking place five to six times a day.

This pandemic showed us how important their roles are and they have demonstrated how appreciative they are. Insert a video of custodians from Red Deer. Insert photo Red Deer Janitors

To Barb, Ana, Fofo, Vicenta, Ciro and Serge

The Archdiocese of Edmonton campus consists of five buildings. The Facilities Support Team – Maintenance and Housekeeping was always very busy but since pandemic, they are in greater demand.

In March 2020, as non-essential work place, most PAO staff were allowed to work from home. Seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary and students from Newman College quickly packed their belongings and went home to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While some of us thought of those policies as somehow inconvenient, we followed them to ensure we stay safe and protect each other.

The facilities team meanwhile had to come to work regardless of severity of coronavirus. Fewer staff were required to come to the buildings, however there also is senior priest residence that the team look after.

In the midst of the pandemic, the senior priest residence had a COVID-19 outbreak, and Ciro and his family were infected. Ana lost her son and Fofo lost her father and brother. Neither of them could travel to attend the funerals and be with families.

Despite all those hardship, the team continued to provide the service they were called to do. Once college and seminary opened in September, with safety policies in place, they ensured all the surfaces continued to be cleaned and disinfected. Their maintenance of the buildings continued to keep us feel safe and cared for in all the campus’s buildings.

Being called a hero is likely very humbling to them, but it’s justified given the importance of the work they do, and that is very much appreciated by all us here at the Archdiocese of Edmonton campus.

Cleaning Collaboration

Teams in different departments at Covenant Health have found new ways of collaborating during the pandemic. At St. Mary’s Hospital in Camrose, the enhanced teamwork between environmental services (EVS) and diagnostic imaging (DI) continues.

It started when staff were redeployed in the early days of the pandemic. The EVS adapted to increased cleaning protocols. The DI team members temporarily stopped seeing outpatients, so they offered to help EVS with cleaning high-touch surfaces in their own department.

“We were grateful,” says Claudia Chow, hospitality supervisor. “The housekeepers could then focus on doing the isolation cleaning and the patient room cleaning while they were getting help to do the high-touch cleaning. It took a bit of stress off their plates so they could focus on the patient area cleaning.”

DI manager Krystal Wall says both teams have a deeper appreciation for each other. “It ended up being a win-win, and the hospital became cleaner. They were working toward the same goal.”

Since resuming services for outpatients, the DI team members have continued to pitch in on high-touch cleaning when they can.

“They’re still helping us,” Chow says. “When they have extra time, they come down and get a cart, and they’ll do some of it in their own areas. So that’s been very helpful.”

Thank you for lending a helping hand.