Rooted in Appreciation
The Custodian Project (formerly the University of Washington Custodian Project) began in March 2020 when daughter of UW custodians and recent UW MPH and MSW graduate, Evalynn Romano, started the Pan de Sal + Kape Fund in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She wanted to acknowledge the work of UW custodians while also support small local businesses. Evalynn started with making thank you notes in her living room with her roommate.
I started this appreciation effort back in March because I was seeing many similar efforts for healthcare workers and none for our valuable custodians. This was a way to show my pride and appreciation for my parents’ line of work. I want custodians to feel recognized and appreciated for their work that is often overlooked and taken for granted.
To show her appreciation to custodial staff, Evalynn served breads and pastries, coffee, thank you notes, and hand-sewn masks to custodians each week (March - November 2020) rotating between the seven areas of the UW Seattle campus to serve approximately 280 custodial staff and management per one rotation.
In addition, Evalynn made deliveries to the UW 10 Recycling Operations staff and UW Medical Center’s 200 housekeeping staff. Evalynn raised over $18,000 to fund bread, coffee supplies, and grocery gift cards.
Art & Advocacy
Evalynn was determined to continue building on the momentum of her appreciation and awareness efforts--with support from the Campus Sustainability Fund, she created and led the UW Custodian Photography Project.
This project used photography-based storytelling (i.e., photovoice) to capture and share the lived experiences of 16 UW custodians and their communities. It also aimed to inform UW in how to best support their custodial staff during the pandemic and thereafter.
Central to the project were these three questions:
To see the photos and stories from this project
Comfortable Shoes & Ingat Packages
As Evalynn amplified the stories shared through the UW Custodian Photography Project to advocate for systemic changes, she also wanted to address some of the immediate health and wellness needs for custodians. In Spring 2021, one year after the start of the pandemic, Evalynn raised nearly $20,000 to purchase comfortable walking shoes for all UW custodians to recognize their continued work to keep the community safe and healthy. Over 200 UW custodians were personally fitted by Super Jock 'N Jill staff and community members, and given Ingat ("take care" in Tagalog) packages.