Christine Garner, Facilities Services Director
What do you do in your job at the WCA?
What I do is both pretty basic and pretty broad. I oversee facility inspections, repairs, projects, IT, and security at both the downtown office and the shelter. I handle facilities-related bills, property insurance, and tracking insurance claims. I work with vendors who come in to do building maintenance or repairs, including explaining our confidentiality and security policies and escorting them through the building. I also interface with the Police Department and our security monitoring company, and I’m on-call 24-7 to show up if alarms go off or police dispatch is needed.
How long have you been with the WCA?
It’s been 20 years as of May. During my tenure here, I was the thrift shop manager for 13 years, HR manager for three years, and have been in charge of facility operations since our secure shelter opened 11 years ago (there has been a lot of overlap between positions – at one point I held four positions at once!)
Where did you work prior to joining the WCA team?
I used to be a case worker at the Department of Health and Welfare.
What do you find most rewarding about your work at the WCA?
I do my job so everyone doing important work at the WCA can do their jobs. When what I do appears seamless, that means I’m doing my job thoroughly. If an employee is comfortable with the heat or air conditioning and they aren’t aware of the work it took behind the scenes, I get a sort of intrinsic appreciation out of that. It means I’ve done a good job at ensuring the best, healthiest, safest environment for everyone here.
The WCA has made me want to be a better person. The honesty, integrity, caring, and commitment that the mission and the staff embody are so important and inspiring.
How have you changed or grown as a person through your work here?
There’s been a lot of learning on the job. Since the beginning, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to explore my strengths, find talents I didn’t know that I had, develop new skills and learn how all kinds of things work through my relationships with vendors. When I started working on facilities, there was no official facility operations system in place, so as the only person in that department I got to fully participate in developing things like our security system and see immediate results. The WCA gave me an open opportunity and the Board [of Directors] gave me their full support to do what I thought needed to be done. It was a bit scary, but also exciting and very fulfilling.
Working with vendors is interesting and kind of fun because I’ve developed a fascination with how things work. When I escort and supervise workers who come in I get to ask questions about what they’re doing. This has helped me develop an extensive knowledge of how our different systems work (electrical, plumbing, security, etc.), which has been great for problem solving but also for developing relationships with vendors. When I first explain our security protocols of being on-site (including confidentiality rules and why I’ll be accompanying them throughout their visit) I try to foster loyalty, understanding, and awareness of what we do at the WCA so they really commit to ensuring our clients’ security, while also making it so they can do their job like they would anywhere else. I’ve found this has been great for our working relationships: they want to work with us because they support what we do, and by making life more comfortable and secure for our clients, they can see that they’re really are contributing to our work.
Is there a memorable moment or story that you’d like to share that you have experienced at the WCA?
I don’t remember exactly where I was or what I was doing – I might have seen a client in the lobby or I might have been in childcare or watching a new resident move into the shelter – but I remember that it suddenly, strongly hit me one day how important it is that I really need to pay attention, to do the very best I can at my job. Considering the absolutely incredible amount of trust that clients place in us to ensure their safety, I put a lot of work into ensuring confidentiality and integrity, even if not everyone is aware of all of the ways that happens.