Historic winter doesn’t slow the Brandeis snow team

The grounds crew, dining and public safety staff keep campus running during snow closures

Photos/James Gray

Unlike most New Englanders, Joseph Realejo wasn’t on his living room sofa on Super Bowl Sunday watching the Patriots’ come-from-behind victory against the Seattle Seahawks.

Instead, he was sleeping.
With the forecast calling for a blizzard in Eastern Massachusetts, Realejo, who is the manager of custodial services and a member of the snow removal team at Brandeis, knew he had long hours of work ahead of him, and he needed his sleep more than he needed to root on the Pats.
The Brandeis snow removal team, which includes staff from grounds services, has logged hundreds of hours this winter clearing nearly eight feet of snow from campus. And with the forecast calling for potentially more snow in the coming days, there appears to be more plowing and shoveling ahead.
Realejo, not one to draw attention to himself, is quick to praise his colleagues’ dedication and hard work.
“My team didn’t see the Super Bowl either,” says Realejo. “They knew they needed to rest up. We wanted to try to get in early to beat the snowflakes. The sense of pride we have, I’ve never seen before. It’s that willingness and eagerness to make sure our students are taken care of. It’s unique.”
Nearly 100 inches of snow have been dumped on Waltham since Jan. 26. During the heaviest storms that caused campus to be closed, dozens of workers from grounds services, dining and public safety made their way to work and worked in shifts around the clock to ensure the students are being cared for and to clear the snow.
The snow removal team includes an eight-man crew of grounds workers, who operate snow blowers and snow throwers, plows, and sand trucks and approximately 30 custodians, who shovel steps, sidewalks and entryways.
Custodians have had to balance snow removal with keeping campus buildings clean. That has meant hours of shoveling outside, as well as cleaning residence halls, offices and classrooms.
Meanwhile, employees of Sodexo, Brandeis’ dining service, have kept the Sherman Dining Hall open to provide hot meals to the students — and workers — throughout the day. In addition, conference and events services have provided a number of guest rooms at the faculty lodge for workers to sleep and shower.
“It’s a concerted effort, an all hands focus,” says Robert Avalle, executive director of facilities services. “Everyone tries to help each other out. Through six feet of snow, we’ve done very well. It’s because of everyone’s dedication, commitment and willingness to do more than just basic custodial duties.”
Avalle and Realejo said they greatly appreciate the acts of kindness students have shown the snow removal team members. Some students brewed coffee and hot chocolate for those shoveling and keeping their buildings clean, while others offered a simple smile or thank you. All signs of appreciation—both big and small—have lifted staff spirits.
“They don’t know who I am, I have a Brandeis facilities jacket on,” says Avalle. “But the students say ‘thanks for what you’re doing.’ And that means a lot.”

Categories: General, Student Life

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