After misfortune strikes co-workers, departments lend a hand


INUNDATED: Rising water levels encroached on a stretch of road near River Des Peres. Last month’s floods halted highways and damaged numerous homes in the area.

After a medical emergency and floodwaters befell the housekeepers that work alongside them, the faculty of the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology; of Psychology; and of Languages, Literatures and Cultures have combined efforts to lend support.

On Dec. 23, Ashlee Dorsey, of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s administrative staff, alerted neighboring departments of one housekeeper’s family medical situation, organizing efforts to lend support.

Dorsey, who has worked at SLU for four years, has become a friend and confidante of the housekeeper. “If anything’s going on, usually she comes to me first to try and help her figure things out,” she said.

Debra Escota, who has worked for the same departments for the past eight months, lost her home to the floods that swept through the St. Louis region in late December of 2015. Within two hours of being warned of the oncoming flood, she saw rescue teams in boats. She monitored the water every four hours as it reached the porch, and then the windows of their apartment.

Escota lives in Fenton,  Missouri, roughly 20 miles southwest of SLU, not far from a levee overtaken by the rising water. She and her family moved to a nearby motel. Within two days, the water rose to the roof of their home.

Her landlord urged her not to worry about possessions. “I just left everything behind, because it’s not worth it, you know?” she said. “I told the rescue people to… rescue … my mom’s ashes, and they told me they had more important things.

“I went back and I got my jewelry and my ashes, the ashes were safe,” she said. A shelf protected them from the water’s reach.

Organizations such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross have given her roughly $1,000 to cope with the damage and her family’s needs. Dorsey, of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, gave her clothes.

“People are great here,” Escota said of the faculty that she works with. Administrative staff in the language and psychology departments collaborated in collecting items for her family—gestures that have surprised her. “I think they were more worried than me!” she joked. “Since my mom died, I’ve become less attached to material stuff.”

Heather Schier, of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, said that the idea came from the chair, Dr. Annie Smart, who asked if Escota would be comfortable with and benefit from their efforts. They ultimately decided to focus on kitchenware. “When you think about it,” said Schier, “there are a lot of little things that make a kitchen run.” Faculty have provided utensils, Tupperware, a coffee maker, a toaster and knives. Others have offered non-kitchen items like a vacuum, a table and stools. Schier estimated that the department has already collected about half of the items of their list of items.

“There’s been a lot of engagement, which is great,” she said. Their housekeeping staff, she said, “adds a lot to the department. I think that they add a positive energy to the whole department.”

Dorsey echoed similar observations, stating, “It’s humbling to know how many people here have actually taken the initiative and care,” she said. “Because it seems like a lot of times the housekeeping staff are just kind of ghosts. They’re here to pick up your trash and clean up after you, but to actually have people care this much, it’s fantastic. And I’m so grateful for all of it. It’s been something that has made me have a new light in people and the way we function, because a lot of times we’re all just going about our lives in tunnel vision. So to have people actually do this is really great.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email