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Behind the cart: A look at the life of Esch janitor Carla Burket

Posted on 11.20.2013

Many recognize her as the lady with long brown hair who greets students while she does her work cleaning Esch Hall. Her family, friends and co-workers know her as Carla Burket, wife and mother of two.

Burket moved to Indianapolis from North Carolina when she was 12 years old. She met her husband shortly after moving to the city.

The two began dating and were married the November after Burket graduated from high school.  Burket said that they had a rough time in the beginning, but they are now better off financially.

“For a while when we first got married, we were just surviving,” Burket said.

Before coming to work at the University of Indianapolis, she worked at McDonald’s and sold photo packages for Owen Mills Photography while her husband took classes at the Professional Careers Institute.

Burket’s first daughter came to the University of Indianapolis in 2006 and brought home an application for Carla with the Physical Plant, so the family could take advantage of free tuition for the children of university employees.

“I was nervous at the interview. It was my first time back to work in a while. I spent a long time raising the kids,” Burket said.

Despite her nervousness, the job was hers. Originally hired for the third shift, she was warned early on that the nights would be long.

“They said that the amount of sleep I would get each night would vary,” Burket said.

In 2008, Burket needed surgery on her hip. She was granted flex time. At the same time, the regular daytime custodian left for another job. Burket was promoted to fill the void. To this day, she works under flex time and normally arrives sometime after 7:30 every morning.

“The first challenge of my day is finding a place to park. After that, I straighten things up. I straighten rugs and pick up papers. I get that from my dad; he was always doing things like that,” Burket said.

Burket then gets her cleaning cart ready and makes sure she has everything she needs on it. Then she starts her rounds, checking the bathrooms and doors, cleaning the windows and straightening the doormats.

The greatest challenge Burket faces is the occasional vomit. Luckily, vomit is something she rarely comes across. When she is called in to clean it, she uses a mixture of sawdust and other chemicals.

“You start from the outside and move in; it just gets soaked right up. It’s amazing how clean it gets everything, and how it takes care of the smell,” Burket said.

Burket enjoys her job mainly because she likes to clean. She said that she was trained well by staying at home and raising her kids for many years. It also seems to be a skill that she cannot turn off.

“In my free time, when I’m just at home, I’ll do a load of laundry or dishes or just start cleaning the house,” she said.

Director of Housekeeping Brenda Pedigo, hired Burket and has been her boss since 2006.

“She’s an excellent worker. I know she’ll still get the work done even if I don’t check on her. You’re not lucky enough to find that all the time,” Pedigo said.

Carla plans to continue her work at the university for years to come.


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