Employee luncheon honors Ruben Escobar

Posted on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 11:30am

By Tracy Poyser

Ruben EscobarMalibu East’s time-honored annual employee holiday luncheon and awards ceremony, hosted by Social Committee chair Sandy Chaet with Board members and management, took on a different tenor this year. Like all social interactions in these worrisome times at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety became the overriding concern for the 2020 event. But, our planning committee found a safe and creative way to bring good cheer to our hardworking employees, and it had help with the setup from staffers Armando DeLaCruz, Bernard LaPinard and Janis Bytautas.

So, on Dec. 18 around noon, building and garage staff members gathered to find the spacious Windjammer Room decked out with festive decorations and round tables festooned in red, positioned at least six feet apart, plus the upholstered perimeter furniture. With just one person per table, the setup ensured more than the minimum six feet social distancing. And, my camera’s zoom lens allowed me to get closeups as well as wide-angle shots – and I bet the people were smiling behind those masks.

Instead of the traditional lunch buffet, everyone got a choice of box lunches, including submarine sandwich (turkey breast, ham or veggie) with a cookie and chips, or a KFC two-piece chicken meal with coleslaw, biscuit and cookie. Tom Vaughan, Sam Bullock, Vicki Blair and Sandy Chaet represented our Board, and property manager Violette Deschamps brought new administrative assistant Ramla Salahuddin and temporary helper Scott Turton.

To start the formal part of the proceedings, Sandy welcomed everyone. “I’ve been through a lot in this building, including blizzards and a New Year’s Eve power outage just before our building party, and I always felt secure due to the great work by our concerned staff.” But, she added, rarely has the cause for our gratitude as residents been greater than in this past year when our entire staff was on the front lines of protecting us from the pandemic.

Sandy then took pride in introducing this year’s loyalty award recipient – maintenance staff member and painter extraordinaire Ruben Escobar, who is celebrating 25 years of service to Malibu East – and asked chief engineer Lou Colletti and property manager Violette Deschamps to say a few words about him. With some gentle ribbing, both commented on the fact that Ruben is and always has been a quiet man, content to work on his own and not inclined to talk or, heaven forbid, gossip.

He started 25 years ago, filling in as a maintenance staffer for employees on vacation, and he became a full-time employee two years later. He learned to paint while on the job, and it became his life at Malibu East.

There are no stories about Ruben because he disappears and stays out of sight – like when he painted the entire east and west stairwells over several years,” Lou said.

Violette agrees that Ruben is a quiet man who doesn’t talk unless he’s answering a question. His work fits his temperament – it’s silent, meaning that whether he’s patching up after a repair or repainting an entire section of a wall, you can’t see a difference between the repair and the original. His last big job was in the commercial Plaza, where he painted all the exterior walls and the drop ceiling, which required him to take down the ceiling tiles and repaint them individually. As always, he did an outstanding job.

Kidded by Violette, Ruben answered a few personal questions: He’s married, has three children aged 29, 26 and 17, and – surprise – his hobby at home is painting.

I found a few more details about Ruben in the January 2016 Dialogue, when I wrote about his 20th anniversary at Malibu East. He moved to the U.S. in 1977 from the Mexican state of Michoacan, where he still has family. For the next 10 years he lived in California’s Greater Los Angeles area, where his sister had settled, and then relocated to Chicago in 1995 after a cousin (one of our former staff members) had introduced him to Malibu East. He and his wife, Victoria, were married in Mexico 25 years ago.

First vice president Tom Vaughan then presented Ruben with an engraved plaque honoring his 25 years of service, together with a letter of appreciation signed by Board president Marcel Molins and a gift card. On behalf of all residents, Tom thanked the entire staff for their extra work and diligence in keeping our families safe during this extraordinary year, while still needing to take care of their own loved ones. He was pleased to announce that the 2020 holiday fund contributions reflected that appreciation, with an increase of about 20% over 2019. Violette then took great pleasure in distributing the annual bonuses to those present.

We hope our employees went back to their daily work with smiles behind those masks crinkling their eyes a bit, knowing how much their long hours of work and special services during the pandemic are valued and appreciated. Please express your own (socially distanced) gratitude when you see them, especially Ruben in his painter’s whites, carrying the tools of his trade. Just don’t expect him to tell you a story.