Northwestern College was ranked the fourth most beautiful campus among the top 25 in the Midwest. This recognition does not come without countless hours of hard work.
The Director of Maintenance and Operations, Scott Simmelink, said as his initial reaction to this recognition, “Way to go Ward. Keep up the great work.”
Ward Van Peursem, the Grounds Supervisor, said, “I love being outdoors, seeing nature and making things looks nice.”
Van Peursem does not do that work alone. It takes many hands to maintain a beautiful campus. Hired part-time staff give their time during the summers, and many students pitch in with snow removal. Simmelink added, “We enjoy being good stewards of the facilities, the grounds and the campus that we are blessed to take care of.”
The NW Maintenance department is more than just co-workers, they are a family. Simmelink said, “We are our own family, we are probably closer to some of these guys than we are with our own siblings, just because we spend so much time together.”
This staff is full of experience, as some have been a part of this team for almost 30 years. This only adds to the great relationships and bonds created over time. Simmelink talked of a high comradery among the staff. When another needs a little extra help, everybody is willing to step in to that role.
“Everybody takes pride in their area, and that is rewarding for me to see”, said Simmelink.
Winter, with its unpredictable and potentially hazardous conditions, presents its own set of challenges for this maintenance task force. Van Peursem and his team often are up and working by three o’clock in the morning getting the sidewalks and parking lots cleared. On the days where the snow continuously falls, Van Peursem tends to camp out at the maintenance shed doing rounds to ensure safe travel for students and community members.
“A big safety improvement [on campus] has been the flashing crosswalk lights,” said Simmelink, “If everybody would use them, the more the better.”
He added that, as a maintenance department, they hear great comments from the community members on this added safety measure.
“The city was very, very generous with helping us put those up,” Simmelink said.
Each pair of lights cost about $5,500, and they are looking at adding more for the crosswalks along Albany. Simmelink said that sunrise, sunset and night are the most important times to use the lights, but they should be used at all times.
Students are able to lend a hand as well. Van Peursem and his team spend a lot of time ‘policing’ campus, also known as picking up trash.
“It would help a lot if people didn’t throw their apples and bananas around,” said Van Peursem.
Another step students can take is sharing a simple thank you. Van Peursem said the moments when a student takes the time to recognize what they do are some of the most rewarding moments in the job. One of the best thing students can do is communicate.
If you see any safety concerns around campus do not hesitate to contact your RA, RD or the maintenance department.