By Melanee Terry
As the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world this past year, some University of Maine at Presque Isle employees have continued their work on campus, including Facilities maintenance worker Jeff Stevens. Due to the extensive COVID-19 regulations put in place on campus during the fall semester, Jeff’s job in Facilities required him to take on more responsibility. Despite the stress and uncertainty during this pandemic, Jeff has persevered through difficult times and has exhibited exactly what it means to be an Owl Hero.
As a maintenance worker around campus, Jeff spends the majority of his time cleaning the dorms. He cleans and disinfects the residence hall bathrooms, hallways, stairs, and helps his coworkers around campus. Through these tasks, Jeff has found that one of the most important aspects of his job is supporting students in the halls.
“I just try to take care of the students. This is my 16th year, but it does not seem a day over 20 years. Kidding, I love my job,” Jeff said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, disinfecting and cleaning have never been more important. The Facilities crew has maintained a much more stringent and frequent cleaning schedule for nearly a year now. It’s nothing like the cleaning they do during a regular flu season. With changes to their job tasks, Facilities members have acted effectively and quickly in order to protect the campus community and ensure the safety of the students at UMPI as they continue to receive an education during troubling times.
Jeff’s relationships with residence halls students is another important element to his job. Since he works so closely with students, he has built friendships and a positive environment with them. When Jeff was in college, one of the custodians on his campus was not friendly with students, so when Jeff received this job, he wanted to do everything in his power to create positive relationships with the students. Jeff dedicates his time to the students on campus and does everything he can to keep them safe during this stressful time.
“I love the students. There is no other place I would want to work here than in the dorms. They are the reason myself and my coworkers have jobs,” Jeff said.
Although most students went home for winter break, Jeff’s duties on campus did not change. Some of the tasks that he does during the break are things he cannot do while the students are here, including deep cleaning of campus spaces. With the spring semester getting closer, Jeff is looking forward to the students’ return.
While working at UMPI for over a decade, Jeff has built some strong relationships with his coworkers. Since the Facilities team on campus is so big, he has been able to work closely with many others. This job gives him the opportunity to stay connected with his coworkers and also allows him to work independently when he chooses. Jeff has learned over time that establishing good relationships with coworkers is important to a job’s success.
“You can’t spend eight hours a day anywhere and not have some kind of relationship with those who are around you,” Jeff said. “The same thing applies to most relationships, which is to be nice, be supportive, and to follow the golden rule, keep your nose out of other people’s business, and most importantly, just relax.”
Living through a historic global pandemic has given Jeff many things to be thankful for. He has also learned how to adapt to life’s unexpected events when no one sees them coming. Jeff has also realized that nothing should be taken for granted because some things don’t last forever. Jeff is grateful for his job, the people around him, and the opportunity to live a fulfilling life. His actions at UMPI these last months have demonstrated what it means to be a hero on campus.
“In the blink of an eye your whole world can change,” Jeff said. “There have been things in every decade that have formed the world. Some good and some bad, but you just have to roll with it. We’ll be OK if we allow it to be OK.”