Facilities Staff Are Unsung Heroes During Coronavirus Pandemic
The behind-the-scenes work of facilities employees is crucial to maintaining and cleaning campus for the ultimate return of students, and, in the meantime, the local emergency personnel who are calling campus home as they respond to COVID-19.
April 16, 2020
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
John Litevich IV, a facilities assistant at the University of New Haven, and his colleagues have been working around the clock throughout the coronavirus global pandemic.
While students are now learning remotely and most University employees are working from home, facilities staff members have been on campus day and night.
“I’ve seen an incredible sense of professionalism from my coworkers,” said Litevich, who works third shift. “It’s encouraging to see people step up to the plate in uncertain times like this. It is rewarding to know we can play a small role in the fight against this pandemic.”
Facilities played a critical role in supporting a program the Office of Residential Life developed with local health officials that enabled resident students, if they chose to, to return to the residence halls last month to retrieve their belongings. Facilities staff members were on campus to help students and parents in each residence hall, and they continued to clean and disinfect the buildings as students moved out.
“Their work included the personal touch they provided to parents and students by being the face of the University during the six-day move-out program,” said Louis Annino, associate vice president of facilities.
He noted one specific example in which a facilities staff member ran into a student and father who were on campus during the last move-out time slot one day during the move-out program. They explained they were hoping to retrieve a piece of mail sent by the student’s grandmother, but the mailbox key had already been returned. The facilities staff member took the student’s name, and, the next day, located the key and retrieved the note from the mailbox. A second facilities staff member brought the envelope to a UPS store and personally paid to send the letter to the student. Once receiving the letter, Annino said, the very grateful student wrote an email to share their gratitude.
“I am incredibly proud of this group for their teamwork, dedication, and commitment to the mission of this University,” Annino said.
While they were helping resident students move out of their rooms, facilities staff learned the University would be making the residence halls available to provide temporary housing to local first responders in need. They didn’t miss a beat as they began preparing 300 beds in several residence halls for emergency responders.
“It is during times like this when the people behind the scenes are as critical as those in the spotlight,” said Rich Rutherford, director of facilities. “We are all in this together, and the teamwork I see among all members of this department is incredible. I can’t be prouder of our facilities staff for stepping up.”
Facilities staff members have also pared back building operations and services to save energy and operating costs, since there are fewer people on campus.
Safety continues to be of paramount importance to facilities staff members as they work. They have been wearing gloves and masks and keeping their distance from one another. In some cases, they have had to make some changes to the ways they do their jobs.
“Typically, we have two people riding in a golf cart at one time, but not anymore,” said Gerald Enright, manager of Facilities maintenance. “Staff members have come up with ways to work separately and to adapt to get everything done. We’ve been very busy, and our work has not stopped.”
Paul Herard, a custodial manager, says he is very proud of how his colleagues have responded to the challenges they have faced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and he is grateful for their dedication to the University and local communities.
“I have heard many of my colleagues comment on the pride that getting the buildings ready for first responders gives them,” he said. “Everyone is working as a team more than ever. This is an amazing group of people.”
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