You Make the Sunshine

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Hearing aids in, Mable, 92, answered her phone. Although her hearing is dulled with age, her mind remains sharp, her laughter quick.

Today, Mable lives alone on Indy’s northwest side. She was married to her husband for 60-plus years when he passed in 2007, and she has one son, three grandchildren and a supportive extended family and church family. But on this day, she reminisced about the 50 to 60 other men she spent her days with in her family-owned commercial cleaning business, Winston Janitorial Service.

“Here comes the lady with the white glove,” they said, whenever Mable entered the room.

“Now, I hired plenty of women also,” Mable noted, “but my biggest goal was keeping these men busy and working in the business.”

She doesn’t recall exactly when the family sold the company—late 1950s perhaps—but her role was hiring and training staff and inspecting their work. Her most time-consuming task, however, was driving workers to and from various worksites and restocking cleaning supplies between shuttle runs.

When she dropped them off, she would admonish them:

“If I put you here, you make the sunshine.”

One challenge in the early days was finding staff willing to work weekends. Mable’s solution was to bribe the men with a delicious, home-cooked meal.

“Y’all put it down right, and I’ll take you to lunch,” she promised.

After dropping off the workers, she would go back home and prepare a big meal, then pack it in vans and deliver it to the worksite.

“Before you knew it, I had more guys working Saturdays than I had through the rest of the week,” she laughed. “That was the time of my life.”

Help for aging seniors who need in-home services

Today besides hearing loss, Mable suffers from complications due to diabetes—both legs were amputated—and other comorbidities. A few years ago, a nephew learned about CICOA at a church event and referred her for services.

CICOA provides care management, home-delivered meals, a medical alert system, and attendant care to assist with bathing, dressing, errands and light housekeeping. 

Does the “boss lady” still pull out her white gloves? “Not anymore,” she laughed. “I don’t expect more of others than I expect of myself, and I’m just so thankful.”

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