Custodial work is not Sondra Edwards’ first career. She worked for the foster care system as a case planner before retiring in 2016. It was a very “intense” job, she said, but Edwards loved seeing children be reunited with their biological families or get adopted.
When it was time to retire, she did, but Edwards soon came back out of retirement. “I was living on my own, spending my savings for two years,” she said. “So when I ran out of money, I was forced to go to the Department of Social Services, you know, to get a little assistance.”
Edwards was referred to a job training program through the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. Now, she cleans the 19th floor of the David Dinkins Municipal Building, which is home to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office. The Borough President wrote a letter nominating Edwards for Office Cleaner of the Year, and said Edwards is “a hard worker, she is always pleasant to others, and she does her job professionally.”
Edwards takes pride in waking up early every day with no alarm clock. She takes the bus to work, and is religiously punctual. When she gets home at the end of the day, she likes to write; she hopes to become an author one day.
But for now, “I just like the whole layout of the job,” Edwards said. She loves that the role allows her to help others by creating a “clean and appropriate atmosphere” for everyone in the building. Edwards’ job has changed in the last year.
“By March 2020, everybody was working remotely, so it was a little lonely,” she said, “But we managed. As time progressed, at least three times a day we go and disinfect the floors, the common areas — especially restrooms — a few times a day so we can make sure we stay disinfected as workers work in their workspaces.”
She is hopeful for a return to a bit of normalcy.
“I look forward to people getting back out. I also look for society to try to improve itself, because we have a lot going on right now,” Edwards said. “Just don’t rush back into life, and then we can get back to real life.”