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Town of Outlook Spotlight: Sarah Mellen, Recreation Caretaker

The work can be monotonous at times, but Sarah Mellen finds something to enjoy about the work she does for the Town of Outlook.
Sarah Mellen, Outlook's recreation facilities caretaker, loves working in the outdoors around town and is actually awaiting the arrival of a baby boy. Photo by Derek Ruttle.

OUTLOOK - You have to love what you do for your community if you find different ways to enjoy it.

Sarah Mellen, the town's recreation facility caretaker, is pretty honest about what she does - she cleans Outlook's facilities such as the Jim Kook Rec Plex and the Civic Centre. It's not glamorous, and sometimes it's not pretty, but it's work that has to be done, and she finds there are other aspects of her position, such as summer beautification, that allow her to enjoy what she does in a daily basis.

Mellen enjoys being out and about in the riverside community, having started in her position in the middle of 2022.

"Come June, it'll be two years since I started in this role," said Sarah, speaking with this reporter. "I started out doing beautification just as a summer student, and then as the hockey season started, Megan asked me if I wanted to come into the caretaking role, and I said, 'Sure, why not?' I did caretaking over the winter and beautification over the summer, and it's just kept going."

Depending on what month it is on the calendar, Mellen's responsibilities can fluctuate and see her carrying different sized workloads.

"In the winter when we have curling, hockey and all of that stuff, it can be a lot of cleaning," she said. "There's still cleaning to do in the summer, but not as much. My focus can mainly be on outdoor stuff instead of indoor. I still do the caretaking over the summer, but it's not as heavy as a workload. Winter is definitely a busy period."

A typical day on the job for Sarah sees her do checkups on town facilities and schedule cleaning days, splitting her time between the Rec Plex and the Civic Centre.

"It can be pretty typical," she said. "I just do a walkthough and check the entire facility here, and I write down all the different things that need to be cleaned before I go through and clean them. The Civic Centre, since it's a rental facility, it doesn't need to be cleaned every single day. Usually, we try to get at it 2-3 times a week, depending on what's happening there. I'm not there every single day, but I will pop in here and there to do some cleaning at the Civic Centre, but that said, most of the time, you'll find me here at the Rec Plex."

Cleaning in and of itself is not so much a challenge for Mellen on the job, but the repetitive nature of her work can get to her at times. But that said, she recognizes that it's necessary work that needs to be done in order for people to enjoy the facilities that they do, especially the Rec Plex, which can get insanely busy over the wintertime.

"Honestly, probably the fact that it's pretty monotonous, especially over the winter," she said. "I enjoy being outdoors in the summer, as beautification is really my favorite thing to do. Cleaning, on the other hand - not so much! Janitorial work is not my dream job, but it's got to be done, right? So I'd say just getting over how monotonous it can be and focusing on the fact that I do enjoy providing a clean and nice space for people to enjoy."

When she's not cleaning inside and able to enjoy the outdoor aspects of her job is a time when Sarah really enjoys the work that she does. She enjoys being out in the community and speaking with residents about the job she's doing, and says that the people of Outlook help make each day a good one for her at the end of it.

"Well, obviously the money!" she joked with a laugh, asked about the benefits of her job. "But like I said, I enjoy providing a clean and sanitary space for people to come and hang out. Over the summer, I really enjoy the flowers, the trees and being outdoors. People like to joke with me that they'd like me to come water THEIR gardens and come clean THEIR house when I'm done with my work. The community is a big one, for me. Even though it can be monotonous and janitorial work isn't really my thing, I enjoy working here. It's a good environment and I enjoy working with the guys."

Mellen says the parts of her job that the public doesn't see hopefully shows them that there's a lot that is sometimes needed in order for things to run as smoothly as they do in Outlook. There's real work being done by real people in order for people to enjoy amenities such as the Rec Plex or the Civic Centre, and she hopes people remember that.

"Well, I definitely think that when it comes to anybody who has worked in customer service or janitorial work - the general public definitely doesn't realize just how much work goes into keeping a space clean and sanitary," she said. "There are also reasons why we have recycling bins and garbage bins, and that's probably the biggest thing; just the amount of work that does go into it and the real people that are behind it."

Having been on the job for close to two years, Sarah says she's already seen a lot that has opened her eyes about Outlook and the people running things behind the scenes. There are virtually no questions asked whenever a facility is clean and running fluidly because the public just comes to expect that whenever they attend an event, or when the flowers around town are growing and blooming.

"There's definitely a lot that has gone on over the last two years," she said. "I've very much enjoyed the growth that has come from working with different people from different backgrounds, and learning how to get along with people that I probably would've never been friends with outside of work. When I was growing up, my parents were always like, 'Leave this place as clean as you found it', so I'd say that part wasn't as eye-opening to me, but probably a lot of it has to do with how blind people can be to different things like how clean a place is, and how much time went into getting it clean. Or it's things like the flowers blooming and how much work goes into that or the work that's done with the trees."

Mellen, close to 25 years old, has been in Outlook for nearly 17 years and says that she's come to know a lot of people and finds them friendly and inquisitive about her work whenever she's found outdoors around town.

"I can now say that I've been here for most of my life," she said. "I'd say the people are always very friendly, especially the elderly people. They always want to come talk to you and ask how you're doing. Or they joke about asking me to come clean their house. The people are just so welcoming."

Sarah, who is around four months away from going on maternity leave and awaiting the arrival of a baby boy, says she's grateful to be working in a community where the people are friendly and respectful. As springtime has arrived in the riverside community, she says she's awaiting the summer months so that she can be doing the beautification work that she truly enjoys.

"Thank you for being so friendly and welcoming," she said, addressing the public. "I'm just happy to be in this role for as long as I'm here, and I'm really looking forward to the summer."