For the last several weeks the Urban Ministry Center blog has featured stories about our staff members and the excellent work they do. We hope you enjoy learning about our team members and what they love about UMC.
Originally from Jamaica Queens, New York, Kennith moved with his family to Charlotte when he was 18. He misses the big city, but loves how friendly people are in Charlotte. He comments that “people here say hi to you. In New York it’s a little different. You don’t just say hi to everyone. You just walk past and that’s how it is.” Kennith shares the friendly demeanor of the city he now calls home, which is a valuable trait for his job at Moore Place. When he’s not busy keeping Moore Place spic and span as the building’s facilities assistant, he likes to spend time at barbeques with his family, or chasing around his six year old son, which is “a full time job” in itself. Kennith is also an avid chess player who is always looking for a partner, so give him a holler if you are game.
Kennith first got to know the Urban Ministry Center through the SABER program, which he successfully completed. When Moore Place was being constructed, a facilities person was needed and Kennith got the job. Although Kennith did not have a formal background in maintenance, he had experience in construction and he was always fixing something. When he was a kid he loved to fix bikes and build things. He and his siblings would even construct their own toys.
Working at Moore Place is full of challenges. Kennith describes how as the building gets older, more maintenance is required and things have more of a tendency to break. Besides maintaining the building, Kennith is also responsible for “flipping” apartments, or preparing them for new tenants. Apartments to be flipped need various levels of work. A very small minority of apartments look as good as they did on day one and need almost no clean-up at all. Other apartments are not so easy, and some require an extreme deep cleaning. Kennith talks about the experience of flipping apartments that belonged to hoarders or “artistic type tenants” who liked to spray paint on the walls or floors.
Although it takes a lot of hard work, Kennith takes pride in making each apartment look pristine. “I’m not thinking about who I’m doing the apartment for, I’m just trying to do my best job, and make it like new again.” His favorite part of his job is “seeing when a new tenant moves in and how happy they are when they see their new apartment.” Kennith interacts with tenants every day, and “you develop a relationship with every tenant.” He is able to recognize when someone is having a bad day and needs some space and can turn the other cheek when things get taken out on him, although it is very hard. He has “been through some ups and downs” himself and has a lot of empathy for what people are going through. He considers the tenants his friends and tries to be there for them. He also has a number of admirers who he has to remind “I have a wife!”
Sometimes, on the job, tenants give Kennith tips on his work. For example, a tenant who was formerly a painter taught him how to blend paint in perfectly by “feathering” the roller. “Everybody here- they had a story before they became homeless. You’d be surprised the amount of knowledge that’s in this building.” Kennith is also constantly inspired by tenants working towards their goals. “We have a lot of tenants here that are going to school, some learning how to read.” Kennith loves being part of an organization that changes lives, and plays a big part in making that possible. We are lucky to have him!