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Saturday, August 15, 2020

    The sparkle behind the shine

    Illustration by Shannon DeLurio

    Illustration of Mathes Hall by Shannon DeLurio

    By Julia Phillips


    The work of the custodial staff can go unnoticed as students go about their busy schedule.

    Western Custodian Flora Sparks, 53, said she feels custodians and their input are overlooked.

    “It’s kind of sad because a lot of us have been up here a long time, and we do know what we’re doing. Sometimes I just wish people would listen to us a little bit more,” Sparks said.

    Before becoming a custodian at Western, Sparks worked at a nursing home for 14 years taking care of elderly people. Until the last three years, she worked specifically in the Alzheimer’s unit.

    “As much as I loved taking care of the [residents], I was tired of getting punched, getting my hair pulled and getting bitten. It was getting kind of old,” Sparks said.

    Bobby Wood, who worked at Western as a cook, was a friend of Sparks. Wood let her know of a job opening at the Viking Commons.

    “I worked in food service for 12 and a half years. Then, there was an opening for a full-time custodian so I tried for it, and prayed about it, and I got it,” Sparks said. “I’ve been a custodian for six years now.”

    Prior to working in Mathes Hall, Sparks used to clean Ridgeway Gamma, but a knee injury prevented her from working there any longer.

    “Gamma is all stairs” Sparks said.

    After over a month of physical therapy and rest, her knee is back to where it was before the injury.

    Freshman Cierra Daugherty said she has experienced only positive interactions with the custodians.

    “I really love Thuy Nguyen who cleans [Mathes]. She’s really cool and always super nice. She cleans the bathrooms really well and is always there to say ‘hi,’” Daugherty said.

    Sparks said before 9:30 a.m. each day,  she cleans the lounges, kitchens and public bathrooms. She then vacuums, wipes everything down, takes out the trash, mops the floors and cleans the windows.

    After a 15-minute break, she starts cleaning the floor bathrooms. When all the bathrooms are done, she said she vacuums floor lounges and halls.

    When students are on break, the custodians scrub and wax the floors and clean the carpets, Sparks said.

    “We’re going 24/7,” Sparks said. “During the summer when everyone leaves campus, we have groups come in and stay. So we clean everything for them. Then, before all the students come back, we clean everything up and get ready for new students coming in.”

    Sparks said her relationship with Jesus is something that motivates her.

    “That’s one of the reasons why I want to do a really good job,” Sparks said, “so [Jesus] can see it and be happy.”

    Freshman Spencer Dolecki said he appreciates all the work the custodians do around campus and has learned a few things from them.

    “They’ve certainly taught me more than a few tricks on how to get things a lot cleaner a lot faster. I had a serious salt problem because of my saltwater tank,” Dolecki said, “but they showed me how to clean up a salt spill even if it was really embedded into the wood.”

    Sparks said all the custodians try their best to make everyone’s life as happy as they can at Western.

    “We’re really trying hard and sometimes it may not look like it, but we really are.We really bust our butts to keep things up,” Sparks said.


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