The first move to help improve the lives of employees was to change the 65 part-time employees to full time and offer benefits.

Then Mary and Tony began informally surveying their employees, asking them what were the biggest obstacles in getting to work. The answer was clear: a lack of transportation. Cleaning takes place at night, often after pubic transportation has ended. And not every employee lives near the bus lines or has access to a car.

So Tony became the driver of the JANCOA shuttle, picking up workers at their homes and dropping them off at their worksites. The solution all but eliminated absenteeism and tardiness; turnover began to shrink.

By transporting workers, Tony was given a window into the world of his employees — and he was surprised by what he saw.

“Tony would come home and say, ‘You can’t imagine how these people are living and how many people live together,’” says Mary.

Mary and Tony began discussing what else they could do to improve their staff’s quality of life. The shuttle was a great start, but it wouldn’t be a silver bullet to solve all the problems. Employees had issues other than a lack of transportation that prevented them from getting to work or even staying at JANCOA for more than a short time.

“We thought if we took away some of those other problems in their lives, and improve their quality of life, then maybe they could come to work more often,” says Mary.

Mary knew first-hand what it meant to be in “survival mode.” Years ago as a single mother of three, she lost two jobs in the same year. With no way to pay the rent, she received an eviction notice on Christmas Eve. Mary was forced to put blinders on and focus solely on making enough money to get by. She saw this same mentality in her janitors — and decided to do something about it.

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