“Anything is possible with the right tools.”
“If we can build it or repair it, we will do that first.”
“I treat this place (Saint Thomas) like it’s my home.”
These are the words of Mr. Ted Coon, who has been responsible for maintaining our Saint Thomas parish and school so beautifully for 36 years and counting. As a member of our Saint Thomas Finance Council and the Sustainability Committee, I sat down with Ted this past Spring to get to know him and learn more about how he cares for this special place. He explained why he, Don Serba and Drew Edgerton put attention to every detail in a prudent and practical way that stretches each dollar we give. We started out the interview in the library but quickly realized that we needed to move to “Ted’s Office” (in the basement of the school filled with every tool, saved screw, salvaged parts you can imagine). The move gave a real feel for what he does for pennies on the dollar to make our sacred spaces shine.
The first thing that Ted proudly showed me was a spiral notebook with a handwritten accounting of every project and its cost they have tackled on the property since 2006. More importantly, it records every penny that was saved on such projects by being a little creative or reusing something old that still had plenty of good use. This notebook is single spaced and ranges from savings of $5.14 to tens of thousands of dollars saved on projects. Incidentally, Ted is working on filling up his second notebook. He estimates that 70% of the maintenance and repairs are done in-house with his crew leaving only 30% to outside contractors (many of whom he has loyal, decades long, relationships). Maintaining these spaces also comes with some risk! He told me stories about chasing a bat down from the second floor of the school one year in preparation for the new school year and removing a snake from the property as they were building the new Ministry Center. He and his crew maintain the grounds, provide the upkeep on the gym (including the floor), and keep the church and school in tip top shape. They are not afraid to tackle something new like making the bathroom handicap accessible or adapting spaces during the pandemic. All in all, they maintain more than 75,000 square feet of floor space plus the outdoors.
When asked, what it is about this place that makes him want to be his best, this was his response… “Saint Thomas is very much a community-oriented church and school. It is a place we feel pride in and where we want to be. A while back I was gone for two weeks and couldn’t wait to get back. Not because I wanted to catch up on work but because I missed the place and the people.”
If you have a minute when you are at Saint Thomas during a weekday, stop in Ted’s office and ask him for a tour. You will leave with a smile on your face and reassurance that great stewardship is at work. Before we wrapped up the interview, I asked Ted what he wants the parish to know about his work and how he carefully manages his maintenance budget and he said, “The parish needs to know they have guys who care.”
by Marcie Hillary