More often than not, cleaning workers come into facilities under the cloak of darkness and tend to trash, floors, restrooms and everything in between. These hard-working individuals are often rarely recognized for the work they do.

This needs to change, which is why I support organizations that have developed awards acknowledging the contributions that custodians make to public health, their facilities, communities and the cleaning profession.

One such award is the 2011 C.L.E.A.N. Award (Custodial Leaders for Environmental Advocacy Nationwide), which spotlights the importance of cleaning for health first and appearance second. The award program is a joint initiative of the National Education Association (NEA), the NEA Health Information Network and the American Cleaning Institute (formerly the Soap and Detergent Association).

Awards are presented to school custodians who demonstrate outstanding leadership in the field of school cleanliness, and who reflect the contributions that promote public health. The 2011 Top Recipient is Barry Crocker of Nicholson Elementary School, Cobb County, Ga., who acts as safety expert, school mascot, environmental steward and emergency-response leader, in addition to custodial extraordinaire.

In addition to Crocker, the award recognized four custodial runner-ups for their hard work, attention to detail and above-and-beyond attitude.

Organizations and award programs such as these are exactly what this industry needs. So many cleaning professionals go above and beyond and they should be recognized for their hard work.