Custodian card

A student shows support for the work of the Upper St. Clair School District custodial staff.

The thought of a COVID-19 Christmas wasn’t exactly appealing to Laura Lisien.

“I was just in a funk. We were all shut down, and we weren’t able to see any family,” the Upper St. Clair mother of two said. “I’m home all the time now, so I happened to be watching the news on a Saturday morning, which never happens.”

What she happened to see while deviating from her normal routine managed to make her smile: a story about folks in Mars Area School District who packed stockings full of goodies to give to members of the custodial staff.

“That’s a great idea! That would cheer everyone up,” Lisien recalled thinking. “Let’s do a fundraiser for our custodians.”

She is a member of the Parent Teacher Organization at Upper St. Clair’s Eisenhower Elementary School, which both of her sons attend, and her first inclination was to show gratitude to the custodians in that building.

But she also serves as secretary on the board of the district’s Parent Teacher Council. And so she approached fellow officers Kerstin Goodworth, who serves as president, and Batool Nulwala, former president and board adviser, about benefiting the entire custodial staff.

Fast-forward to the end of January, and the Upper St. Clair Custodians Gratitude Drive had raised $12,637.50 through 679 donations, plus 650 notes expressing thanks, all distributed among the district’s 54 custodians.

“They are the ones who have been really working behind the scenes to make sure the rooms are clean and the kids are safe, and they need to be in the spotlight right now,” Nulwala said. “I have heard that there have been times when they are understaffed, and they’re taking a lot more on to make sure that everything is running smoothly.”

The gratitude drive started simply, with the creation of a web page for donations.

“We soft launched it the day before Christmas, without even telling anybody,” Lisien said. “And on the first day, we got $200.”

The organizers really started to get the word out when the students returned to school for the new year.

“It just took off like wildfire,” Lisien said. “I think everybody was kind of looking for something to be happy about. It was an outlet to show some gratitude and some positivity and some support.”

Nulwala, who has a son at Fort Couch Middle School and another who graduated from the high school in June, would like for the PTC to build on the initial drive’s success.

“This is something that we also think we want to continue,” she said.

“Now we want to think about who else can benefit from a drive in the spring.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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