Committee Shows College of Charleston Staff Appreciation, Fun

Faculty Staff News

The ARC shows Facilities Management staff members appreciation, recognition and a really good time!

(l-r): First ARC chair, Markus Williams; current chair, Sonya Edwards; second chair, Rachael Bradford; members Herbie Parnell and Michele Villante (photo by Catie Cleveland)

When was the last time you had fun in a meeting? When you had a good, genuine belly laugh? When you didn’t want it to end, even though you knew you’d accomplished a lot and were making a real difference?

For the members of the Facilities Management Appreciation and Recognition Committee (ARC), it happens every single week.

“This is the highlight of our week,” says Michele Villante, administrative coordinator to the vice president of Facilities Management. “It recharges us.”

“We all have rough days, but we can come here and vent or laugh or just feed off of each other,” agrees Markus Williams, Electrical Shop supervisor, who served as the ARC’s first chair.

“You can come here and put your burden on the table,” adds Herbie Parnell, assistant Paint Shop supervisor.

World Facilities Management Day

There are also snacks on the table – usually homemade and enticing. But it’s the appreciation for the other people around the table that is so remarkable.

“We all contribute. And we all continue to get more and more ideas off of each other,” says the committee’s former chair, Rachael Bradford, CAD/graphics administrator for Facilities Planning. “We do the work to boost morale, and when it pays off, we get that boost, too. When you’re doing this to make people happy, it makes you happy.”

“The feeling of appreciation piggybacks off the ARC, and gives everyone else a boost, too,” says Parnell. “They see us and the way we’re feeling about it, and they start to get excited, too.”

Indeed, the members of ARC embody exactly what the committee sets out to do: Boost morale among the Facilities Management staff members through team building, recognition and appreciation.

“I always want to show my appreciation for our workers, especially our temp workers. I appreciate everybody,” says current ARC chair Sonya Edwards, dispatcher and customer service representative, adding that she was the “bootleg ARC member” before the committee formed in 2018. “Before we had the ARC, I tried to do whatever I could do to show my appreciation, but it’s always been me. I was so glad when John Morris came to the College and formed the ARC. I thought somebody must be hearing my prayers!”

As the ARC’s founder and biggest supporter, Morris – who will soon be retiring from his post as vice president of Facilities Management – has offered suggestions and guidance when solicited, but stays largely on the sidelines, allowing the committee to operate as it sees fit.

Retirement celebration for Facilities Management Vice President John Morris (photo by Catie Cleveland)

The vision for the ARC is simple: Appreciate and recognize Facilities Management members for their valiant efforts in dedicated service to the campus community.​

“It started out as this idea of something we wanted to do, and we didn’t really have anything definite planned for what we wanted, but then we started meeting and a lot more people started showing up to events, and this whole clear vision came on us, and the whole thing came to life,” explains Parnell.

Now the ARC is busy recognizing valued staff on an individual level with handwritten and signed cards to celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries, as well as cards of sympathy, get-well wishes and support in times of need.

“When we started giving out cards for people’s birthdays and anniversaries, it was the first time people were feeling seen, I think,” says Williams, noting that the ARC also coordinates monthly awards, where peers may nominate one another for the MVP Award, the Unsung Hero Award and the Pride Award.

“And now people are excited about work,” says Parnell, “because they know people are seeing them and how hard they’re working.”

Grounds Crew won the Best Decorated Golf Cart prize with its hula skirt!

And the ARC makes sure that it’s a “work hard, play hard” effort – coordinating events like an annual holiday luncheon, custodial appreciation reception, resident move-in appreciation luncheon, work safety celebrations and retirement celebrations. They also have shop days, where each shop gets its own day to be celebrated.

But it is, perhaps, the just-for-fun activities that the ARC puts on that are the most popular: from door/golf cart–decorating contests, Donut Day and Chick-Fil-A Day to fish fries, a fall family fun day, a chili cookoff, mac-n-cheese competitions, BBQ rib competitions and the big July cookout.

“For the first cookout we did, only 50 people RSVP’d, but 100 people showed up – now we get almost everyone showing up,” says Williams, admitting: “It was a struggle at first because they didn’t know what the ARC was, but now they’re asking about what we’re doing next, they’re volunteering to help.”

“Yeah, people volunteer, pitch in with decorating and cleaning up now – they stick around to help,” says Villante. “Many hands make light work, so we appreciate that.”

And the Facilities Management staff appreciates what the ARC is doing now, too.

Sonya Edwards and Rashad Towns at the holiday luncheon

“It clearly means something to them,” says Williams, pointing to the time people want to put into gatherings now. For example, at the July cookout, at first “people said they didn’t want a potluck, but then we had it catered one year, and then everybody wanted to do a potluck. They were invested – you don’t spend time at home cooking for something you don’t care about. They didn’t want to be served. They wanted to show each other their appreciation for each other.”

That appreciation has spilled over into the staff’s daily work, too: The overall employee morale has improved, people are excited to come to work and ­– because they feel like a part of the larger team ­­– they are motivated to do the best work they can.

“When people see that they’re appreciated, they want to show up,” says Williams, adding that he, for one, has become a better supervisor because of the ARC. “I want to elevate my team and I’ve done that thanks to the ARC.”

“I’m very proud of our ARC members,” agrees Edwards. “We know we are helping, and that just makes us want to do it more.”

They can’t wait to get started at their next meeting!

Current ARC members also include Alex Howcroft (Plumbing), Becca Hodges (Grounds) and Rashad Towns (Operations and Maintenance). Management team members may nominate peers or themselves to serve on the committee.

The ARC’s activities are funded through generous individual contributions to the Facilities Management Employee Appreciation Fund (R873FM), established through the College of Charleston Foundation. Donations to the fund are welcome.

You may also show your appreciation for the Facilities Management team by nominating individuals for the monthly Facilities Management Awards or the annual Staff Awards, or by recognizing them for The Cistern Standard.

Ideas, questions and comments are always welcomed.

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