Creator of Shine, Giver of Love
In a residence hall on the campus of a university in North America, 112 young adults eat, sleep, and go about their college lives. Looking down from high up in the air it's a serene picture. But viewed from inside one the 112 young minds, any day can be a speeding twisted ride on an unknown road leading farther and farther from home. Except there's a warm presence here that fills the hallways. This building glows in a way that's unlike most public places. It's because of a woman named Cindy Rexrode. And although it's her job to keep this stack of bluestone and linoleum named Converse Hall clean, it's her caring that fills the hallways every day. And it's her love for the students who reside here that makes this hall a home.
"Cindy is just an amazing person...I've been living in Converse for three years and she's been my housekeeper all three years...and the first year, she was a friend, the second year a sister, and this year, I really feel like she's a mom. She's always making sure my roommate and I are having good days, she never tells us about her problems first, it's always 'how are you doing?'
Cindy gives the students presents and cards for different holidays, such as Christmas and Valentine's Day. While thoughtful and greatly appreciated, it is the emotional gifts she brings with her everyday that are invaluable to the students. Kind words of encouragement offered after a failed test, an unsuccessful try-out or contest, or even a break-up with a boyfriend can mean the difference between a sudden smile or an unbreakable frown. Cindy's natural understanding of this, along with her unending supply of inspiring words, touches the hearts of so many students. She has been best described as a "ray of sunshine" for Converse Hall.
"I remember a conversation I had with Cindy once and I asked her how it was that she kept track of everyone and cared about everyone so much and she said that all of us had a huge job to do and the students had to go to school, and do well in classes and meanwhile they had to be so far away from home. And we didn't have parents or family around and she felt that just by saying hi and asking how our day was that she could act as that parent...not get involved too much but just enough to make sure that she knew that someone was out there caring for all the students."
Cindy also strives to contribute to the community of JMU. She actively inquires about students' activities, involvement in organizations, and how they are doing academically. She goes beyond "Hi" or "Hello" and makes fruitful attempts to know the students as best she can.
"Cindy really builds community in how interested she is in everything that's going on...every student that comes by, she wants to know and understand what they're involved in on campus, be it a class or an organization...and she remembers and she takes note of those things, and she'll mention to you, 'Oh, so-and-so's working on this, is that related...' and she's just very interested in connecting people and bringing people together and understanding the depth of the community."
"She definitely cares about the students in our building. She's not just here to make sure Converse is kept clean, but she's really here to get to know the students and to really feel a part of the community. She wants to make sure every student feels that way."
Professionally, Cindy's hard work is exceptional. She arrives at the Ashby computer lab everyday at 6:30 a.m. so that she can make it to Converse by her usual time. Former resident Hunter Tabony adds, "Cindy works tirelessly on the building everyday and she really takes pride in her work. Plus, she really cares about the residents and somehow always has a positive influence on your day." Sarah Strong, Hall Director of Converse can speak first-hand of Cindy's dedication. "When there is something that needs to be fixed, Cindy catches it and reports it right away. Even when she feels that something may be about to break, she'll come and tell me." Her willingness to keep the hall looking beautiful is limitless.
"I remember one day it was the snowy or rainy day and this area of the hall is notorious for just being completely muddy and I came in one morning and she was working on trying to get it clean and she goes, 'Sarah, I just can't keep up. I'm trying to make this place look great, and I just don't know how I'm gonna keep up,' I said, 'Cindy, you do a wonderful job. There's only so much you can do...we keep dirtying up your floors.' And she says, 'Well, you know, it's just my job and I wanna do it the best I can, I want this place...this is your home, and I want it to be the cleanest and the nicest and the most comfortable home that you can have...and that's my job." And so she went right back and started trying to clean again...regardless of the people that kept walking through."
Vickie Raynes, one of Cindy's supervisors, speaks highly of Cindy's dedication. "Cindy works well as a team member. Also, being a good housekeeper means getting to know your customers. She treats these kids like they are her own family."
Cindy Rexrode has given so much love to the students of Converse Hall. Her sweet reminders to wear a coat when it's cold or take an umbrella when it's raining are a calm assurance that the students have someone to care for them so many miles from home. The way in which she selflessly listens to any problem or celebration a student may be having is remarkable. As Karen Boxley explains, "She really cares about getting to know us...not just saying hi to us or just waving, but really when she asks a question, she listens to hear the answer."
"Well and her passion for the students really transcends her own life in a sense. You can never really tell if she's having a bad day because she still wants to make sure that you're having a good day and she cares more about you and what's going with you and I think that empowers her and it empowers the students in so many ways."