At Pennwood Middle School, head custodian Cindy Hain takes pride in making sure the Lower Makefield Township facility is spick and span. But for the 63-year-old Morrisville resident, the job is so much more than overseeing cleaning and maintenance.
Students and staff are “her kids” and “her teachers.” Hain consistently goes above and beyond for the Pennwood community, spearheading initiatives such as the creation of a kitchen space for young learners with special needs, and a food pantry for middle schoolers of low-income families.
Recently, several of Hain’s colleagues decided she deserved recognition for her efforts, and nominated her for Cintas Corporation’s Custodian of the Year award. Now in its seventh year, the award shines a spotlight on those who work behind the scenes and often go unnoticed, and is open to custodians of educational facilities of all levels, elementary through college.
Hain is one of 10 finalists from across the country competing for a $10,000 cash prize, $5,000 in Cintas and Rubbermaid products and services for her school, and a comprehensive training and development package from ISSA, The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, valued at $20,000. The public is invited to vote online through Friday, April 17.
For Hain, who deeply misses her Pennwood family during the current closure due to COVID-19, landing a spot in the top 10 was a welcomed surprise.
“My gosh, in times like this, I cannot even believe it. I’m just flabbergasted,” she told The Times. “I am so proud to get this honor, I really am. I usually don’t win anything. I’m grateful for my teachers that nominated me. I love them all and my kids.”
Twelve Pennwood staff members, with the support of Principal Derek Majikas and Assistant Principal Ryan Kennedy, submitted Hain’s name for consideration. The biography they provided reads, “Cindy is known for putting a sprinkle of her own personal touches throughout the school. You can tell where Cindy has been, not only because the halls sparkle and shine, but because there’s a path of love with all arrows pointing back to her.”
According to Hain, she’s willing to take on any problem that’s thrown her way, even if it’s not in her job description.
“Anything that walks through my door here is my responsibility, whether it be digging someone’s retainer out of the trash that’s already going to the Dumpster, or cutting a lock off the locker with the bolt cutter because they can’t get their locks open. It could be anything at all. It’s our job,” she said. “If someone gets skunked on their way to the bus stop in the morning, we take everything they own and we deskunk it. So, it’s just whatever walks through our door, that’s what we do.”
Other voluntary tasks include caring for Pennwood’s resident rabbit and guinea pig, and helping the seventh-grade boys form a private meeting spot.
“They’re out under a stairwell where I can watch them,” she said. “I call it the ‘Coffee Club’ minus the coffee.”
Additionally, Hain crafted a quaint kitchen space, which is rented by the Bucks County Intermediate Unit for special needs students to learn cooking and baking skills. She even brought in a combination coffee pot/toaster oven/round burner from home.
Hain also organized a fully-functioning pantry, complete with a freezer, refrigerator, food and necessities such as deodorant and shampoo.
“We noticed in the school district that a lot of kids were staying home from school when they were sick, but they wouldn’t stay home long because there wasn’t enough food in the house. So, kids were coming to school sick,” she said, explaining how these students can now bring food and other essentials home with them.
If Hain were to win the Custodian of the Year contest, she would use the prize money to revamp Pennwood’s outside learning area and pond, which she said wasn’t touched during the school’s renovation several years ago.
With online voting underway, Hain is humbled by the outpouring of support…especially since custodial work is her “second act.”
After working as a florist for 18 years, and moving to and from Texas with her husband and children, Hain craved a change, but wasn’t sure what that change looked like. The answer came when her late brother-in-law, custodial supervisor for the Pennsbury School District, asked if she’d like to assist with summer cleaning at the high school. Hain fell in love with the job, climbing the ladder to part-time night cleaner, full-time day cleaner and, finally, head custodian at Pennwood.
“I just can’t believe the response. It’s just been crazy. I have people that I went to school with who are voting for me, and I’m old. I’m 63,” Hain said with a laugh. “It’s amazing how fast this spread and how gracious everyone is.”
To vote for Hain, visit custodianoftheyear.com/custodian-of-the-year. Voting closes on Friday, April 17, at 11:59 p.m. PT.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org