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Housekeeper creates welcoming home for students

Massey Award winner and self-described “big auntie” Chineka Stanley is free to be herself and bond with the residents she serves.

Chineka Stanley.
“Chineka does so much more than just keep the halls clean and absolutely deserves this award,” one nominator wrote. (Photo by Jen Hughey/UNC-Chapel Hill)

“Chineka is a wonderful, hardworking and deserving employee,” wrote one of the many people who nominated residence hall housekeeper Chineka Stanley for a C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award. “She is always here, bright and early.”

“Bright and early” is especially fitting, given that Stanley typically arrives before her student residents wake and lifts their spirits with a personality that shines.

Employed by the University for nearly five years, Stanley maintains and cleans the Lewis and Everett residence halls off Raleigh Street, not far from the Coker Arboretum. Among her nominators were 37 of the buildings’ current and former residents and four resident advisers. They wrote about how good Stanley is at her job but absolutely gushed at how she is “extremely caring,” “a ray of light,” “kind and considerate,” “a warm presence” and “amazing and uplifting.”

It’s clear that Stanley goes above and beyond in her role, brightening the lives of her students. And they’ve tried to do the same for her. There’s no way to sugarcoat scrubbing toilets, Stanley said, but the care and consideration of the students make the job easier.

“To come in and have that love is awesome. The number one way I get respect back from them is how clean they are,” Stanley said. “And beyond keeping stuff clean, their relationship with me makes my job easier. They talk to me and ask me for advice. I’m kind of like their big auntie. It just makes it a lot easier to have to clean toilets every day.”

Creating a home

The residence halls Stanley cleans are primarily for first-year students. Often this is the students’ first extended stay away from their parents. They can have a hard time being away from home and may be new to cleaning up after themselves. Stanley keeps that in mind and tries to make them feel welcome in their new home.

“They’re going through all types of different emotions. I can try to make them a little bit more comfortable. It takes some of the pressure off,” Stanley said. “At least when they come into the building, they’re able to say it smells good, it looks good and it’s warm.”

One of the resident advisers who nominated Stanley recalled her relationship with Stanley and the way Stanley has supported the students she serves.

“She has given me life advice and encouraging words and inspires me to keep going even when my days are long. She is a well-known face around Lewis and makes my day better whenever I see her,” the RA wrote. “Chineka does so much more than just keep the halls clean and absolutely deserves this award.”

Being herself

A self-proclaimed “sneakerhead,” Stanley often sports Nike Jordans in different styles and colors at work. Her collection is so large, she said, there are some she hasn’t yet worn.

While showing off her style helps her connect with students, that’s not why she does it. She simply wants to be herself and credits her department for giving her that freedom. “In housing, they allow you to be yourself and show who you are. They welcome that, and that makes the job a lot easier,” Stanley said.

She is also grateful for the support of her co-workers.

“We’re like a family. We have a great work environment and a great team. When I need a day or two off, I can be at ease knowing that my teammates are going to cover my area well and are willing to help,” Stanley said. “I do think that most housekeepers get overlooked. For someone to even notice my work, it means a lot. So, to be nominated and to actually win this award just for being myself and doing what I like to do is huge.”

This story is part of The Well’s coverage of the C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Awards, which recognize “unusual, meritorious or superior contributions” by University employees. Look for new recipient profiles to come or find others you might have missed.