Maintaining 36 facilities in 11 towns scattered across Central Maine might sound like an impossible task, but that’s exactly what Shawn Gross and his team do every day.
For about five months, Shawn was the only full-time member of the maintenance team. His teammate, Paul, worked just a day or two a
“I like working with my hands,” Paul says. “I’m not stuck in just one place.” Paul had been working with the maintenance department for seven years when Shawn came onboard. He says Shawn’s leadership has made a big difference. “He’s a great boss. I’ve learned a lot from him,” Paul says. “Shawn will say “what can you do differently to fix this problem?” It helps us learn from our mistakes and own up to them as well.”
But two sets of hands just weren’t enough. After some trial and error, Shawn found Scott Martin to fill the open full-time position. Scott had been working as a DSP at SKILLS for more than a year, but his background was in the building trades. He was happy to return to his roots by joining the maintenance team.
“It definitely makes it easier with two folks on,” Shawn said. “Scott can go one way and I can go the other.”
They also had lawn care help this summer from Ryan Jackson. “I’d like him to come back next summer,” Shawn says. “He proved himself a good guy,
a good worker.”
Because most of the facilities are in rural areas, an unexpected trip to the hardware store can cost the team hours.
They try to keep themselves organized with the maintenance list. Any team leader, manager or supervisor can add to the list. And yet, Shawn estimates that about 70 percent of what they do never makes it onto the maintenance list.
“So much of it is, “oh, while you’re here…” says Scott.
One of their challenges is keeping everyone happy. Sometimes it’s a budget issue. Sometimes it’s a manpower issue. Sometimes it comes down to urgency. Client requests always take priority.
“We are here for the clients,” Shawn says. “These are their homes. When we go in if there’s an issue or they’re having a bad day, we come back. We’re a guest in their home. We’re here to make their homes as safe as possible,” Shawn says.
Both Shawn and Scott are certified DSP’s. Shawn is also CRMA and MANDT certified. “I used to like to say I was probably the only CRMA certified maintenance man in the state,” Shawn says.
Both men believe that those certifications have made them better at their jobs. “It is a tremendous asset to be in the homes and understand what goes on and working with the clients and also the stress that a DSP can be under at various times,” Scott says.
Both men agree that the best thing about their job is the people. “I truly enjoy everybody I work with,” Shawn says.
He says team leaders and staff step up to do whatever maintenance they can safely do. It’s rare that he gets called out for things like lightbulbs or plunging toilets.
Shawn’s personal mission since he took over in February of 2016 has been to make the maintenance department a department to be proud of.
“It has definitely been a team effort to get where we are,” Shawn says. “When something goes right, or wrong, they know who to come to.”