Employees honored for 75 years of service

Posted on Wed, 01/01/2014 - 12:00pm

By Tracy Poyser

No, the number in the headline isn’t a typo. During the annual holiday luncheon on Dec. 21 hosted by Social Committee Chair Sandy Chaet for all of Malibu East’s loyal employees, this year’s four honorees jointly represent 75 years of dedicated service to our residents and condo community:

  • Lou Colletti, chief engineer - 30 years
  • Victor Noriega, maintenance - 15 years
  • Fernando Romero, maintenance - 15 years
  • Recep Gunen, garage - 15 years

More about each of them later in this article – but first, a bit more about what makes this annual event so special for both our employees and our management and Board. From noon to about 2:30 p.m., our entire staff of service people – from the garage and Receiving Room to our maintenance, doormen and office personnel – were treated to a bountiful lunch buffet including salads, pizza, hot dishes and a variety of desserts.

Since the employees couldn’t leave the building bereft of service, they celebrated in three shifts, which meant that Board second vice president Tom Vaughan had the opportunity to applaud the honorees and thank the entire staff three times also. Judging from the pride and genuine joy in his voice, Tom saw this as a privilege rather than a burden.

In addition to the special service awards for the four honorees, each employee received a check representing their portion of this year’s holiday fund, a special pleasure since the total contributions from 280 residents added up to a 17% increase over the prior year. Tom believes that the many building changes and challenges our employees had to accommodate during the past year resulted in a greater sense of appreciation by the residents. Also, this Dialogue reporter hopes that stories focusing on what goes on behind the scenes in the day-to-day life of our condo staff may have helped a bit also.

In addition to Tom Vaughan and Sandy Chaet, other Board members stopped in to celebrate with the staff and express their personal gratitude.

I had the pleasure to chat a bit with each of the four honorees, so you can learn a bit more about them:

Our chief engineer Lou Colletti joked that he’ll try for another 30 years with no notion of retirement (yet), but he isn’t sure if the rest of the staff can keep up with him. In terms of personal background, he felt that the cover story on him in the November 2013 Dialogue was enough publicity (you can find it online on the website if you’d like to read it again). And, if you haven’t done so yet, please congratulate him when you see him.

Garage hiker Recep Gunen told me with the sunniest smile imaginable that he sees Malibu East as his second home. A native of Istanbul, Turkey, he’s made the United States and Chicago his home for 26 years, together with his wife and a son and daughter. After working in construction and other jobs for several years, he was introduced to Malibu East by one of our other hikers. He started on a half-time basis, and when a full-time position opened up, he leapt at the chance and has no desire to work anywhere else. Even the confusion and constant shifting of car locations during our multiyear garage construction project didn’t dampen his enthusiasm. On the contrary, he felt it made work more interesting! Happily, he’s been able to visit Istanbul and his family there almost every year during his vacation. His favorite food from Turkey is white beans, and he raved about the underground bazaar near the famous Hagia Sophia with its miles and miles of intriguing goods. Surprise Recep with a heartfelt “Teşekkürler” (pronounced te-shek-kewr-lehr) for his 15th anniversary next time he brings you your car!

The always smiling Victor Noriega can’t believe that 15 years have gone by so fast! After arriving in Chicago from Mexico in 1976, he tried and held a number of different types of jobs before his cousin Carlos introduced him to Malibu East. He was happy to get a full-time maintenance/janitorial position after a couple of years of temporary work. He describes himself as a very social person, and that makes him so comfortable helping our multifaceted resident population – and in turn, that makes it so pleasant having him around. He loves working the second shift. Although he does his work with intense concentration and focus, that sunny smile never seems to leave his face. He’s especially happy that his twin brother, José (younger by 15 minutes), also landed at Malibu East, and although he misses two brothers who are still in Mexico, having two brothers and one sister in Chicago makes for a good life here.

Fernando Romero looks back on his 15 years of service for Malibu East with much joy also. After having worked the garage with a cleaning company for a year, he asked Lou for an opportunity to switch to maintenance and got that chance on Dec. 10, 1997. He also began as a part-timer and moved up to a full-time position at the earliest opportunity. Fernando was 15 years old when his family emigrated from Mexico to Chicago. Married, with a 10-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son, he has no intention of living anywhere else, especially with two brothers and two sisters also in Chicago. He happily posed for a photo, and I think you’ll agree his happy smile says it all!

Please don’t forget to greet Victor and Fernando with a smile and a “Muchas gracias,” and wish them another 15 good years at Malibu East.

Of course, it’s good to remember that all of our nearly 40 employees make us feel like family every day, and we should take a special interest in their work and their stories. They’re going to make sure that 2014 is, indeed, a happy new year!