Employees honored for 135 years of service

Posted on Mon, 01/01/2018 - 10:30am

By Tracy Poyser

It’s a special holiday tradition at Malibu East, and one that I’ve been privileged to photograph and witness for quite a few years now. Every year it’s a joy to participate in Malibu East’s festive employee recognition luncheon in our Windjammer Room, and this year was extra special because of the number of combined years of service by our honorees – 135 years of dedicated work.

Board members were on hand with Social Committee chair Sandy Chaet and property manager Violette Deschamps to host the occasion and express their personal thanks, not just to the seven award recipients, but all of our loyal employees. Of course, not all of them could be on hand at the same time to enjoy the delicious catered lunch buffet that started the festivities. From noon to 2:30 p.m., plentiful platters of salad, pizza, pasta, chicken, Italian beef, chicken fajitas, Spanish rice and sweet treats left no one hungry, and that was accompanied by easy camaraderie and banter among those present.

As master of ceremonies, Sandy opened the awards presentation by expressing what a joy it is to live in a building with such an exceptional staff. “There have been quite a few changes since I moved in during the summer of 1978,” she said, “but one thing that has not changed is the staff interaction with the residents. Thanks to all of you for your caring, concern, help, friendly manner, and going above and beyond to take care of Malibu East and its residents.”

Sandy asked garage manager Ali Saeed to say a few words about two of his men celebrating 10 years of service.

First, Azmir Hilcisin (known as Azi). His normal shift is 3-11 p.m. According to Ali, Azi is fast on his feet, always ready to work and gets cars down in record time, and his sunny personality and welcoming smile for everyone make him a real asset. He started working garages 23 years ago, including prestigious locations including the Drake Hotel and the Belmont House, before finding Malibu East, where he hopes he’ll stay at least another 10 years. You can’t miss him – he has the cutest haircut of all of our garage hikers.

Next, a man who, in Ali’s words, is the reason we can sleep well at night. William (Willie) Watson works the most difficult shift by himself, keeping the garage humming overnight from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. He’s calm, confident and clearly proud of what he does – from welcoming residents home after a late night out to greeting those working late or early shifts, and making sure late guests are safely on their way – always done with a smile. During the quiet hours from 2:30-3 a.m., he sets up cars for the morning commuter rush out of the garage. Fortunately, he rarely runs into security problems or troublesome people – but he knows how to handle those, too. Willie started with Standard Parking at Fullerton and Clark but prefers a residential building where he feels part of a community.

After a round of applause (just the first one) for Azi and Willie, Sandy called on Violette to introduce the honorees from the building staff, together with chief engineer Lou Colletti.

Violette echoed Ali’s praise for our two garage honorees, then adding her own for another “night bird,” doorman LaTerry Dorsey, who’s also celebrating 10 years at Malibu East. His steady presence and gracious demeanor is a true credit to our community, and three years after this writer interviewed him for the Dialogue cover story in November 2014, he’s still enthusiastic about his shift and declined an opportunity to move to days. He’s calm, self-reliant and doesn’t panic. It’s a pity that so many residents don’t get to see him, so please say an extra-special “hi” to him if you come home late or leave early.

A 20-year award went to maintenance staff member Victor Noriega, a man whose return to work after recovering from a brain injury suffered in a tragic accident on July 4, 2016, brought joy and relief to everyone at Malibu East. (Sadly, he had lost his twin brother, longtime Association employee Jose Noriega, only a few months earlier.) Victor returned to work in November 2016, and he attributes a big portion of his progress since then to the support of his co-workers and residents alike. His cousin, longtime Malibu East janitor Carlos Morales, contributed the accompanying photo of a young Victor not too long after his arrival from Mexico in 1976. According to Lou, Victor caught on quickly in doing any task without much supervision and calls Lou only when he needs help. His resilience in the face of formidable odds is exemplary and earned him a standing ovation at the luncheon.

Attention then focused on a man whose 25-year service leading our security staff is a tremendous asset to Malibu East. (He’s unnamed for reasons of security.) What he does – and how – is top-secret, and it’s part of the reason he catches some cases of malfeasance quietly and without distressing our neighbors. Violette says it’s the best security arrangement she has seen as a property manager in any building. With the help of two other “undercover” security guards, his unobtrusive competence keeps us protected around the clock. He clearly has the well-being of our community at heart and wants everyone here to live in a peaceful environment, from the residential units to the common areas.

Also recognized for 25 years of loyal service was doorman James (Jimmy) Bolante, who doesn’t seem to have aged a day since he started at Malibu East in 1992 (as you’ll see in the photo accompanying this article). If you’re new to the building, you may not know that he’s the husband of Receiving Room clerk Norma Bolante, who met Jimmy in 1990 when they both worked at Dominick’s grocery store. She joined the Malibu East Receiving Room staff in 1991, and Jimmy started on a temporary basis to help whenever receiving was shorthanded. He soon found his niche as a doorman, first part-time, and then leaving Dominick’s for a full-time position with us. Violette praised Jimmy’s responsiveness, punctuality, ability to adapt to any changes in front-desk policies, and how well he looks after our residents. Jimmy knows almost every resident by name and has a welcoming smile that lights up the Lobby.

In one of the highlights of the afternoon, Lou did the honors “roasting” an outstanding staff member celebrating 35 years working for Malibu East – Mirceu (Mike) Rostescu, Lou’s sidekick as assistant engineer for our building. “He had black hair when he started here – even though child labor was still illegal,” Lou joked (as illustrated by the accompanying photo of Mike holding Lou’s baby daughter Julie – she’s now in college). The two have a close resemblance to Mutt and Jeff – or, as depicted in the hilarious poster created by administrative assistant Melody Keegan, the “TWINS.” Seriously, Mike’s calm and consistent manner of problem-solving and his ability to analyze difficult situations have been what was needed to keep Lou sane over the years. “Without him, I would be in a rubber-padded room by now,” Lou quipped. “You can also set your clock by him,” he added, telling a story about how Mike’s love for hunting comes to the surface at the same time every year, how Mike takes the same three weeks off every fall to go hunting and how he talks about the vacation for several months beforehand. Joking aside, Mike’s integrity and intelligence in everything he does are an example to the rest of the staff.

Before calling on first vice president Tom Vaughan to recognize the honorees and hand out the awards, Violette made a point of recognizing the hard work of ALL our employees in a year full of difficult special projects and sudden emergencies, from completion of the elevator project to the façade work and ensuring compliance with the City’s life safety regulations for the building and all units. She gave special mention to her assistant, Melody, as a tremendous addition to the staff, as well as to representatives from two important contractors: Juan Corona of Reliable Building Systems, who’s the foreman of the balcony/façade project, and Chuck Perreault of Oakbrook Mechanical, who’s supervising the maintenance of the HVAC and other building systems. It’s a very rewarding feeling for her to see that everyone’s heart is in the right place, with staff members jumping in to help each other whenever needed. Violette believes that’s why this year’s employee holiday fund collection slightly surpassed last year’s record total in spite of continuing hard times for some residents, and she feels privileged to distribute the annual holiday fund checks and cards to staff members who are so appreciated by the residents.

Tom reflected on the fact that he had the honor recognizing the staff on behalf of the Board on the shortest day of the year, noting that the Board adopted the employee recognition program in November 2007 and revised it in February 2010. He personally congratulated each of the seven honorees to a round of applause, presenting each one with a letter of recognition signed by Board president Marcel Molins and a gift card. The two 25-year honorees also were presented with engraved wall plaques. Of course, the occasion was a great photo opportunity.

The luncheon concluded with much mingling and conversation, especially when more employees joined in – several of those on duty that day could spare only a little time away from their assigned stations, such as doorman Gilbert Richardson or Norma in receiving.

As always, thanks are due to the Social Committee for choreographing this annual event, with input from the staff on the menu, and help from employees Carlos, Fernando Romero, Bernard LaPinard and Board member Carol Beatty in setting things up.

If you have a chance, please take time for a personal thank-you when you come across our honorees and, for that matter, all employees who make Malibu East such a wonderful home.