When the classrooms are empty at the end of the day, John Cummins gets to work.
In an empty classroom decorated with colorful shapes and numbers at New Beginnings Child Care, Cummins runs a vacuum cleaner over a zoo animal rug. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cleaning process now includes sanitizing rooms with a UV light.
The little ones call him Mr. John, “and when they try to touch the walls with their dirty little hands,” a teacher says, “I remind them of all the hard work he does.”
Cummins is part of the ranks of workers who carry out their jobs behind the scenes to keep essential businesses running during the pandemic.
After retiring from a career in factories, Cummins learned about New Beginnings, which operates out of the former Beard Elementary School building.
The center is a registered child care ministry of Woodland Heights Christian Church that provides classes for infants through preschoolers.
Wanting to stay active during retirement, Cummins took a job as the center’s custodian four years ago.
“My job depends on the kids — what kind of day they had,” Cummins said before starting to clean a room.
“I’m here to support the kids and the teachers and our director and staff,” he said. “Whatever they need, I try to accommodate them.”
Olmy Olmstead, a parent representative on the center’s board of directors, wanted to recognize Cummins for his work.
Olmstead started a thank-you campaign on the center’s Twitter page last week, posting comments from teachers.
“When I go to work, I know that my kid has an incredible experience because of people like John that make the building feel safe, that make the kids happy,” he said. “When she comes home and tells me stories every day, she can’t wait to tell me how her day went.”
One teacher praised Cummins for coming in on his day off to fix equipment. Another remembered him letting a couple of the children show him a favorite book.
The Twitter page has also recognized individual teachers and board members. A humbled Cummins reluctantly accepts the praise.
“It takes a lot of us here to make the place what it is,” Cummins said.