Three cheers for Malibu East's dedicated staff

Posted on Thu, 01/01/2015 - 12:30pm

By Tracy Poyser

Malibu East StaffThe annual staff holiday luncheon has been a festive tradition at Malibu East, but one that many of our residents may not know about. Lovingly organized by Board member and Social Committee chair Sandy Chaet, this year’s lunch party on Dec. 19 again brought together as many of our building and garage staff members as possible at one time. It marked another year of exceptional service and dedication to our residents. Of course, since essential functions like the doorman/reception station, Receiving Room and valet parking service can’t be left unattended, the festivities lasted from noon to 2 p.m. to give everyone a chance to participate.

The menu featured a delicious lunch buffet with a variety of salads, hot and cold appetizers and tasty Italian entrees, including chicken parmigiana, pasta and pizzas – and, of course, sweet treats to ensure everyone got enough calories.

In addition to Sandy, Malibu East Board members Arthur Arfa, Carol Beatty, Martina Molins, Tom Vaughan and Neil Warner made our employee guests welcome and appreciated – and several former Board members and residents stopped by to deliver season’s greetings in person. Once all were seated and no longer hungry, property manager Violette Deschamps had the happy task of distributing the annual employee bonuses, i.e., the holiday fund contributions from residents and nonresident owners that were distributed to our staff members based on their years of service and salary level. She also shared the many cards and personal notes from residents expressing personal thanks and good wishes.

Vice President Tom Vaughan acted as master of ceremonies of sorts for the highlight of the party – the annual Malibu East employee recognition awards.

Recognized for 10 years of service with a special bonus gift was Daniel Bacerra, who was transferred to Malibu East from another residential building garage in 2004. He was born in the Philippines, but his family moved to the United States when he was 3½ years old. Asked what he likes best about his job, his spontaneous response was “the people.” Of course, that’s partly because our residents like him back – and are grateful for his speedy and courteous service, always delivered with a smile.

Our second honoree, with 15 years of service, was garage attendant Yonan Zaya, who had to miss the holiday party because he works the overnight shift on Fridays. But, I caught up with him at the 11 p.m. start of his shift to take his picture. He was born in Syria and also lived in Lebanon prior to coming to the United States and Chicago. He’s been married for 31 years, with a 30-year-old son and a 28-year-old daughter, both born in the U.S. He worked in many different places before starting in the Malibu East garage in 1999, including other high-rise garages, a muffler shop and an earlier two-year Malibu East garage attendant job from 1986-88. Asked if he’s going to stay another 15 years, he just smiled, as he did in his photo. So, please make sure to smile back at him a lot – we want to keep him here!

But, the undisputed hero of this year’s awards ceremony was maintenance man Carlos Morales with an astounding 35 years of service. Violette praised him as a man of very few words, with amazing customer skills and a quiet, competent presence. Kathy Katz, from our Receiving Room, says she loves to hear Carlos sing in the hallways, and Vaughan and Chaet added their own thanks on behalf of the Board and residents.

Chief engineer Lou Colletti said he’s been “through hell and high water” with Carlos during his own 31 years at Malibu East. According to Lou, Carlos rarely gets rattled, except that one time early on when he was cleaning the dog run and panicked when he picked up what he thought was a dead bat. Lou rushed to his help with a shovel and gave the bat a mild kick – whereupon it flew off into the wild blue yonder over the lake. “He’s been on duty without fail eight hours a day and five days each week, and appreciated by residents and colleagues alike,” said Lou. He also praised Carlos for his resilience and initiative when, after almost losing his hand in an accident with a lawn mower during his fourth year at Malibu East, he used his recovery time to learn English at Truman College.

After a resounding cheer for Carlos from the entire assembly, he graciously shared a bit about his life with this reporter.

Carlos was born in the State of Michoacán in southwestern Mexico, and his family moved to Mexico City when he was four or five years old. One of 16 children (only six are still alive today), he went to school for six years and then started working to help support the family, taking any job he could find, from shining shoes to selling newspapers. After mandated military service of almost two years, he moved to Chicago at the age of 20, having been urged to immigrate by an older brother who already lived here. His first job at a hotel in Evanston, where he worked 12 hours a day for an abusive boss, lasted from 1977-79. When he quit, he spent a Friday walking from Howard Street to Hollywood along Sheridan Road, filling out applications in every condo and commercial building along the way – and he lucked out with Malibu East. He passed a lie detector test the following Monday, and after a year working in the garage, residents recommended him to the building manager. So, he happily joined our maintenance crew and almost doubled his wages.

His initial duties included outside work and night shifts, but he succeeded in getting regular daytime shifts, which were better for his health and family life. He and his wife, Carmen, had four sons three years apart – the oldest is now 28. Carlos tries to visit Mexico at least once a year. He still has one older brother and a sister there but considers Chicago his home, and his Malibu East colleagues his second family. The smiles in our group picture are living proof of that!

So, please don’t forget to congratulate Carlos the next time you see him. That goes for Daniel and Yonan also, the next time they bring you your car.