Families raise thousands for school janitors on cleaning sprees amid COVID-19 crisis

(WILLISTON, Vt.) — While schools are closed across the country, custodial staff are doing their part to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus with deep cleanings lasting several days.

To show their gratitude, parents have been raising thousands to pay these janitors overtime.

“They really appreciate it and not for a second thought they were deserving of it,” Brooke Thomas of Williston, Vermont, told Good Morning America. “They looked at it as, ‘This is our job. This is what we do.’ I don’t think they’re recognized enough.”

Thomas, a mom of four, said her kids’ schools shut down last week after a staff member was potentially exposed to coronavirus.

For precautionary measures, janitors did a two-day, thorough cleaning of both Allen Brook School and Williston Central.

Thomas chimed in on her local Facebook group, commenting on the hard work these men and women show in the schools.

“They’re in a potentially contaminated area, making sure the school is safe for our kids,” Thomas said. “I said, ‘Let’s be mindful of other people going right into the front lines’ and that just sparked a positive conversation. Everyone immediately wanted to help.”

Thomas launched a Facebook fundraiser hoping to raise $200. After four days the amount reached $7,450, which was split among eight custodians.

Lyall Smith, head of facilities and management at Williston schools, told GMA his staff is extremely thankful.

“All my people were really thrilled that they took the time to thank us for what we’re up to,” Smith said, adding that he and his colleagues have been cleaning and sanitizing doorknobs, carpets, floors, lockers and cubbies.

“It’s not terribly surprising,” Smith said of the cash donation. “This community is pretty incredible.”

Shawna Lidsky, a mom of two from Shelburne, Vermont, followed Thomas’ lead and started a fundraiser for the janitorial staff at Shelburne Community School, where her 9-year-old attends.

The GoFundMe campaign has reached $4,000.

“There’s eight custodians and my personal goal is to be able to write them each a check for $500,” Lidsky told GMA. “They’re still in the school every day while we’re all home keeping our kids healthy, the staff who’s still there healthy and putting themselves in harm’s way.”

Heather Letteney, a mom of two from Medfield, Massachusetts, recently raised $9,200 for 19 custodians. Letteney said those workers are unionized and must get approval before accepting cash gifts over a certain amount.

“Whether they get the money or not, they didn’t even care. They were thanking me for even thinking about them,” Letteney told GMA.

“They’re keeping the kids and keeping the schools clean,” she added. “This is a time more than ever to appreciate what they do.”

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