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Keeping a campus of Union’s size in order is not an easy job. Often overlooked, the custodial staff works long hours behind the scenes to ensure that campus is as clean as possible.
Gale Jelks has worked for housekeeping and facilities management for 17 years. While she enjoys her job, she said it is not always easy.
“I get here at 3 p.m., and I don’t leave until 12 a.m.,” she said. “It’s a full day’s work to make the school look clean, but I think it’s even harder to keep it clean. We make sure that the offices, classrooms and bathrooms are always looking their best, which isn’t always as fun as people would think.”
While her job is not always the easiest, Jelks said there are perks that make it worthwhile.
“I mainly deal with the art department, and I choose to clean that particular area,” she said. “They are always making beautiful art, and it always looks so good. I enjoy seeing what that come up with next.”
Jelks was once featured on the wall in the art hallway of the Penick Academic Complex. She said she will never forget the moment that made her feel so special.
“I never dreamed that my picture would be on the wall at Union,” Jelks said. “One random day, this girl asked me if she could take a picture of me and draw me for her art presentation. I didn’t know why, but I’ve always loved helping people, so I let her. The drawing actually won, and the winner was able to have their drawing on the wall, and that really made me feel special.”
These moments of bonding with faculty and students is something that Jelks looks forward to every day. She said the hardest part of her job is seeing the students graduate.
“I spend most of my time with the art department children, and it always makes me sad to see them go,” she said. “I’ll meet students their freshman year, and to see them grow, right before my very eyes and graduate, it kind of make me sad. Once they’re gone, I have to get used to a whole new set of students.”
Jelks said that, for the most part, it is not her job that keeps bringing her back, but the connections made with her co-workers and students. She believes that working on Union’s campus has changed her in ways she never could have imagined.
Photo Story by Amanda Rohde, staff photographer