Dusk to dawn, staff works unpopular shifts

For the past couple of weeks, University Professor of history Preston Jones has been showing his gratitude to the employees around campus and Siloam who work jobs that the public does not always show their appreciation for.

Jones has been meeting with employees from JBU’s cafeteria and custodial staff, as well as with employees from the nursing home and the Gates Rubber Company in Siloam. The point of all of these meetings is not only to show these individuals how much their jobs are valued but also to understand why they continue to do jobs that the public does not see and recognize enough.

“My initial plan was to do things only with businesses off campus, but I found it difficult to get the businesses off campus to pay attention, partly because people are busy, and so it is hard for people to give their time to something when they don’t know what it is. And then it sounds so weird. I just want to get together with people and talk about why what they do is important and give them some money,” Jones said. The money he is referring to is funding that the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics gave him to compensate the employees who participated in the discussions.

The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics is a Christian non-profit research organization that encourages the biblical perspective of work and assist individuals and organizations in understanding the biblical principles of work and how to apply them. The non-profit desires to show organizations and individuals how even the smallest jobs fit in to God’s bigger plan for the world.

“My emphasis is on people who do really important work, which is pretty much anybody who does honest work and don’t get recognized,” Jones said about why he felt the need to personally recognize those whom society sometimes ignores.

The custodial staff starts their day at 4:00 in the morning to clean JBU buildings including the Health Complex, Hutcheson Hall, and the Mayfield dormitory. At the discussion that Jones held for the custodial staff, he opened the floor so the employees could share why they do this work and why they feel it is important. The employees gave several answers that all revolved around their love for God and their love for the students and faculty here at JBU.

“It is an honor to be here because we are molding Christian soldiers by providing a peaceful atmosphere that allows the students to focus better. I feel that we are a part of the JBU mission by being here and being servants of the Lord,” said Geri Fortner-Cruz, who has worked for JBU for 10 years.

Maria Hernandez has worked for JBU for three years and Jones translated her response. “Her work is important because it reflects who she is. It’s important because she feels like she is working for the Lord. It is important also because her work makes it easier for students to do their work.”

“Most professors have a statue of Jesus cleaning the feet of the disciples, and that is really what we do. At that point, Jesus was doing custodial service,” said Rick Harms, who cleans the Cathedral.