One hundred thousand square feet. Three floors. Twelve bathrooms. Five kitchens. Daunting to clean? Not if you have the right right-hand man.
Cedric Smith’s custodial load at St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis has been largely lightened by an able assistant, Sam LoPresti. Together they wash windows, dust crannies, clean stainless steel drinking fountains, vacuum volumes of carpet and often share lunch together.
“It’s nice to have company,” said Cedric, a 41-year-old father of three who has worked at St. Olaf full-time for four years. “I look at him like a little brother.”
About a year ago, the Rev. Patrick Kennedy approached maintenance chief Steve Nallick, asking if he might create a job for Sam, 23, who has Down syndrome. Sam’s parents, Pete and Terese, were supportive, but not pushy. If it didn’t work out, they’d understand.
Nallick tried out Sam for 30 days, then partnered the quick study with the easygoing Cedric.
“He just latched onto me,” said a charmed Cedric, of Bloomington.
Sam, named for his famous Chicago Black Hawks goalie grandfather, works from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., three days a week. On a recent Friday, Sam was in his zone, vacuuming a large gathering space. Cedric, who encourages Sam to work independently, picked up crumbs from under tables across the room. “Good work,” he told Sam. Sam likes dusting best, but he’s up for anything.
“Ready for the trash run?” Cedric asked. “Ready!” Sam said.
“It may take him a tad bit longer than someone else his age,” Cedric said. “But if he doesn’t know how to do something, he’s more than willing to learn.”
The duo agree that music motivates. Both often wear headphones. Sam’s tastes run to AC/DC, George Michael and Robert Palmer. Cedric’s a hip-hop and R&B guy.
“Listening to them laugh and joke together at lunch always makes me smile,” said church receptionist Mary Beth Liekhus, “even if I don’t understand their humor.”
The gathering room tidy, Cedric and Sam move on. Rectory, kitchen, bathroom, food shelf, nursery, storage spaces. “There’s always plenty to do,” said Cedric, who no longer has to remind Sam about that. “If I don’t see him, and the vacuum is gone, I know he’s where he needs to go.” □