Rather than complain about litter and dirt around her family's Hunua Falls food cart, Kathleen Clemens decided to take action and take care of the area herself.
Noticing her commitment to cleanliness, her family helped the 26-year-old, who has learning difficulties, get her first job as a part-time cleaner.
Kathleen sets the bar so high at work that the Hunua Falls toilets she cares for have been named Keep NZ Beautiful’s best loos 2020.
Mum Raylene supports her as she works her magic on four women’s toilets, two men’s toilets and a disabled toilet, plus three urinals.
Built about 20 years ago, the toilets are looked after by Citycare Property and its partner Civic Contractors, with both organisations rightly proud of Kathleen.
They say she takes great pride in her work, and even though park users are expected to take their waste home with them, she picks up every scrap of litter left behind near the toilets and carpark so the toilets don’t look messy.
Citycare Contract Manager Steve Paulson is full of praise. “She is an absolute role model who is dedicated to keeping the Hunua facilities clean so all visitors can enjoy the area.
“What’s more, she’s a truly awesome person to get to know. I hope people go out of their way to say hello to Kathleen, thank her and see this great location for themselves.”
Her mum might drive her to work each day and can offer guidance, but there’s no doubt who is in charge, and Raylene says more companies should employ adults like Kathleen.
“When they are given a chance, they will prove they can do it. It’s a real thrill when park users compliment Kathleen that the toilets are pristine and spotless.”
Citycare maintains a diverse workforce country-wide and is committed to supporting sub-contractors with similar values, such as Civic Contractors, with its employment opportunities for people living with disabilities and those with convictions looking for a fresh start.
The spectacular 30-metre falls in the western part of the Hunua Ranges Regional Park attract more than a quarter of a million visitors every year.
That means the toilets are used by an awful lot of people, every one of them with a reason to be grateful to Kathleen.
Auckland Council Parks, Arts, Community and Events committee chair Alf Filipaina says Kathleen's work is a worthy winner of the Keep NZ Beautiful’s best loos award.
“She’s a terrific young woman who is passionate and committed to doing her job to the very best of her ability, and that never changes.
“This award is Kathleen’s alone and it highlights what a special facilities custodian she is.”