Hallee Martinez is such an enthusiastic, joy-filled person that it is not difficult to see why her employers love her.
Hallee talks about her job in a way many would envy – she regularly uses words like love, awesome and fun.
"When Mamie (job developer) told me about this job, I said, 'I have to have this job,'" she said, smiling broadly. "It's so much fun."
Halle works 20 hours per week as a custodian at Fruitland Middle School in Idaho. She lives in Ontario, Ore. and has been in services with provider WITCO for many years. She was in WITCO's sheltered workshop for six years, where she sewed flags and made piñatas.
Like most providers in Oregon, WITCO is transitioning from facility-based to community-based employment services. About a year ago, Mamie Allen, employment support coordinator with WITCO, approached Fruitland Middle School in Idaho about hiring Hallee.
"Our minimum wage is lower in Idaho (than in Oregon), so we struggle sometimes to find good employees," said Fruitland Principal Shane Burrup. "We pay more than minimum but it's still a struggle to find workers. I was just really happy to get help."
It turns out the job was a perfect fit for everyone involved. In the year she has worked at Fruitland, Hallee has become part of the Fruitland family. Her supervisors' affection for her is evident, as they boast of her artwork.
"You know, Hallee is an amazing artist," Shane said. "She brought some of her work in to show all the staff and we were just wowed by it."
Stuart Grimes, achievement specialist at the school, added: "She is a go-getter. She is so positive that it's a breath of fresh air. When you see her first thing in the morning smiling, it just changes the direction of your day."
Hallee works four hours per day, Monday through Friday. Halle said she loves what she is doing now.
"It is so much more fun than anything else I have ever done," she said. "I love cleaning the bathrooms and sanitizing everything. It's so fun."
Hallee also has a special bond with her job coach, Brenda Preciado. "Brenda is an awesome job coach," Hallee said. "She shows me different scenarios and helps me do a better job. She is awesome at it."
Brenda described the change in Hallee's personality since she started working.
"She was a bit shy at first," Brenda said. "She was nervous to be in a community job for the first time. She has learned a lot."
Hallee agreed. "Being in an environment where I get to meet new people and new friends, it's made everything so much more awesome," she said. "It's an amazing workplace."
Hallee's supervisors said her work is noticed by teachers and students.
"We have zero complaints now from the teachers about their rooms now that Hallie works here," Shane said. "After breakfast, she interacts with the kids as she cleans up and they love it too."
Hallee lives in her own apartment in Ontario with caregivers. She said she is glad she gave community employment a chance.
"Working in the community, you know, you get to get out of your 'ozone,'" she said, laughing. "I was so excited, sometimes I couldn't sleep because I couldn't wait to get to work the next day."
Hallee said her attention to detail that makes her love cleaning translates into her detailed artwork. She paints with acrylics and also does sculptures. Fruitland Middle School is looking at showcasing her work in the future.
When asked what her favorite part of her job is, Hallee exclaimed: "Everything in my job description is my favorite!" she said. "Everything at the school is wonderful. I really want to stay here."
Stuart Grimes and Shane Burrup's eyes begin to fill up as Stuart responds to Hallee: "Hallee – we want you to know you literally make our day better."
View a slideshow of Hallee at work