Tag Archives: omnitrans employee of the quarter

Employee of the Quarter, October-December 2016

Director of Operations Diane Caldera, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz, Omnitrans CEO/General Manager P. Scott Graham, and Board of Directors Chair Sam Spagnolo.

When asked to attend the Omnitrans Board of Directors meeting in February to be officially recognized as the Employee of the Quarter, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz was appreciative and humbled, but a little apprehensive.

“I don’t like all the attention,” a modest Christina reveals. “I just want to come to work and do the best job that I can. That’s how I like to prove myself.”

Christina’s passion for the work that she does led her to this achievement. She does not seek pomp and circumstance, or praise. She would rather let her strong work ethic speak for itself – and it has.

When she’s not leading a new class of coach operators through their five-week training period, Christina is working on tasks to improve our fleet safety. She currently also sits on the Accident Tracking and Prevention Committee and is an alternate representative on the Accident Incident Review Committee.

Over the last quarter, Christina has: become the first in the Training department to complete the Leadership Action Plan program, the University of the Pacific Transit Management certification, and developed an employee proficiency form that has improved the Operations department’s CHP and DMV audits of over 400 coach operators. She has also volunteered to attend the DMV Employee Testing Program (ETP) examiner course in Sacramento later this year. Gaining this certification saves the agency money and resources by having an ETP examiner on-site to administer the tests for coach operator commercial driver licenses.  

As involved as she is within her department, Christina’s enjoyment comes from interacting with new coach operator students in the training room.

“I get to be a mentor as well as a coach,” Christina smiles. “This is what I tell students when they come through the door: ‘I don’t teach you how to drive, you already know how to drive. I am just going to add to what you already know.”

Christina’s approach to training is not to simply teach from a manual, but to pass on knowledge that she has gained through experience, and share it with future drivers to enrich their own job performance. This is what makes her look forward to another day at the office.

“I enjoy interacting with our trainees and being exposed to different types of personalities. It helps me learn to work with different individuals. The agency relies on me to execute what needs to be done, and if I can contribute to that greater goal of the agency by instructing new drivers, then I am happy,” she tells us.

Fleet Safety and Training team at the 2016 Omnitrans Bus Roadeo: (left to right) Charles Molloy, Christina Diaz, Norma Zamora, Don Frazier, Kim Perkins, and Steve Sisneros.

Before joining Omnitrans in 2013, Christina had been a driver at other transit agencies. When the time came for a change, she found an opportunity in Training that was suitable to her skills and experience. She describes this as the agency “taking a chance” on her without knowing her, for which she is grateful.

In her three and a half years with the agency, her proudest moment is having been an integral part of the sbX launch in 2014. “I was here since its inception,” Christina says proudly. “Even though I was new here, I got to be involved in the process from the beginning, learning how to drive the 60-foot articulated buses, and passing that on to operators who had not driven them before,” Christina shares. “That was a milestone – to launch the region’s first bus rapid transit line – and I got to be a part of it. I made history with the agency!”

Christina’s mindset is that fostering mutually beneficial relationships with coach operators is crucial. “Someone once told me that if you have a know-it-all attitude, and you believe there is nothing else that anybody can teach you, you’re in trouble. There is a lot to learn, always.”

She continues, “I am always asking a lot of questions! We are all part of one agency, and the more that you’re aware and knowledgeable of other departments and facets of the agency, the better that you can do your job. Knowing more allows you to understand the broader picture of what we do for our public.”

Christina’s pride and dedication are not lost on anybody, especially her supervisor, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Don Frazier. “Christina has been a true leader in the Training department. She has volunteered for tasks continuously and has worked many days off to make sure that tasks are covered,” says Don. “Christina has definitely proven to be not only an excellent instructor, but an overall great employee to the agency.”

Moving forward, Christina wants to continue to exceed expectations. “My goal is to continue to fulfill the needs of the agency and to meet the demands to the best of my ability. I also want to continue to grow and learn as much as I can.”

“I take such pride in this job, which is something that I haven’t always done before. I didn’t always care about my uniforms looking neat and pressed,” she laughs. “But now at Omnitrans, I go as far as taking them to the cleaners, because that’s how proud I am to be here.”

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Alex Chen

Omnitrans photo of Employee of the Quarter Alex Chen by photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Alex Chen

Omnitrans Database Administrator Alex Chen is at his most comfortable behind a computer, writing code or troubleshooting databases.

“I’m a programmer,” he shrugs with a big smile. “I love my job. It’s just what I do best.”

Maybe that’s why he was so surprised to learn he had been selected as Employee of the Quarter.

There were a lot of reasons he was a good candidate.

Alex developed the Transit Screen system for the San Bernardino Transit Center, implementing Nextrip and E-sign for the project.

Employee of the Quarter Alex Chen

Omnitrans IT Director Jacob Harms, CEO P. Scott Graham, Employee of the Quarter Alex Chen & Board Chair Sam Spagnolo

He was also project lead for the massive update of the agency’s Procurement SAP system. His responsibilities included building the program, testing for quality assurance, and, finally, implementation.

“This was a huge project,” he explains. “And it affected purchases for every department. Because it involved such extensive upgrades, much of the work had to be done at night or on holidays when no one was on the network. I even spent Thanksgiving and Christmas here to make sure everything was functioning correctly. I don’t mind it. It comes with the job in IT, and I enjoy what I do.”

Luckily his wife understands the demands of his work.  The couple has two houses, one in San Gabriel and one in San Bernardino. During the week he stays here in the city to be close to the office, and on weekends he drives the 50 mile commute home.

“We Facetime a lot on our iPads,” he chuckles. “In some ways it’s great because we don’t argue or get on each other’s nerves. We get to do whatever we like during the week and enjoy our time together on the weekend. It works out well. I feel very free to do whatever I need to do for the job.”

20160203_EofQ_Alex_Chen-005

Alex’s knowledge and expertise has made him an invaluable resource, not only for IT, but for other departments as well.

“Alex is a wizard at taking our data requests from various internal data systems and combining them into usable reports so we can make business decisions,” says Service Planning Manager Jeremiah Bryant. “It’s been extremely helpful on a number of projects.”

Troubleshooting the NexTrip bus arrival system information has been the toughest problem Alex has had to face over the past quarter.

“Our complex IT system incorporates multiple outside programs, as well as those we custom develop in-house,” says Omnitrans IT Director Jacob Harms. “This means that we’re pulling data from multiple sources for NexTrip, which can cause glitches. If TransitMaster were as reliable as Alex’s interface programs, we wouldn’t have issues with missing or incorrect NexTrip predictions.

“The real value that Alex brings to Omnitrans is his ability to quickly take a customer (Omnitrans or public) need and utilize existing resources to develop his own custom solution.  A great example of this was the sbX pulse system.

20160203_EofQ_Alex_Chen-001

“When the sbX route was first implemented, Omnitrans wanted to use a free running system with set intervals for scheduling rather than a set schedule.

“Although this was requested months prior to the new services launch, our vendor was unable to provide a solution in time.  In just a matter of weeks, Alex was able to create his own custom solution, involving an in-house built program pulling location data from our TransitMaster databases and relaying that to a network of cell phones that we installed on the buses.  Now the solution itself was rather simple. But without Alex and his ability to quickly create and implement custom programs, this would not have been possible.”

Alex’s dependability, innovative problem-solving, ability to successfully create highly customized solutions, and willingness to go above and beyond to assist others make him an invaluable part of the Omnitrans team. We are proud to honor him as our Employee of the Quarter.

Frank Flores does whatever it takes for customers

dumpsterdiving

Warranty Coordinator and Employee of the Quarter Frank Flores “dumpster dives” in a scrap metal bin while Materials Supervisor Rick Barone looks on.

Omnitrans Warranty Coordinator Frank Flores loves a challenge. From dumpster diving in scrap metal bins to researching manufacturer warranties, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to turn old metal parts into dollar signs. Thanks to his diligence and dedication, Omnitrans has recovered more than $307,000 in warranty claims in the last fiscal year!

When Frank was promoted from Parts Clerk to Warranty Coordinator three years ago, he was up against some heavy competition for the position. His strong analytic skills and systematic approach to claims and recovery made him stand out as a contender.

“Frank is a problem-solver,” explains Materials Manager Rick Barone. “He’s very proactive in finding new and better ways of doing things that benefits everyone. He’s also not afraid to get his hands dirty. I’ve even caught him dumpster diving for parts in the scrap metal bins.”

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Frank Flores

From left to right: Omnitrans Board Chair Sam Spagnolo, Frank Flores, Procurement Director Jennifer Sims, CEO & GM P. Scott Graham

“Thanks,” Frank laughs and adds “I only dumpster dive at work. It’s actually not a hobby. I basically search through the bins to see if I can find anything that might still be covered under a manufacturer’s warranty. The mechanics know when the warranty on a vehicle has expired, but they may not know that a specific component is still warrantied by the manufacturer.”

“He also incredibly organized and keeps impeccable records,” Rick points out. “A lot of guys in his position have extensive knowledge in their heads, but they’re not great at documenting information and communicating it to others. Frank does it all.”

Procurement Director Jennifer Sims agrees. “Frank has brought a level of analytics to the process that Omnitrans has never had before. He provides a very different systematic approach to how we handle claims and recovery.

forklift group

“For example, Frank developed a special tagging system. Now instead of parts just being tossed into a warranty bin, each item is tagged by the mechanic with as much information as they know. This makes it much easier to research where we ordered it from, how long we’ve had it, and if there is any warranty left. Frank’s been very instrumental not only in improving communication between the mechanics and the procurement team, but also in developing tools within SAP that allow us to track that warranty information. This helps automate the process and makes it easier for the mechanics.”

Frank credits his coworkers for making the process work. “It really is a team effort, and I appreciate everything they do. And the mechanics—they’re a great bunch of guys. I wouldn’t be able to do my job without them. They’ll even double-check a part for me to see if it’s still viable and something we can clean up and reuse.”

“When you look at the volume of claims that Frank is recovering,” Sims points out. “It’s more than double what we were able to do in the past. When budgets are tight, he’s actually saving job positions by maximizing our resources.”

frank and rick

“It feels good to know that what you do has that kind of impact,” says Frank. “It makes you want to do all you can. That’s why I don’t have a problem reaching into a dumpster.”

An eight-year veteran with Omnitrans, he tells us he plans to stay with the agency until he retires.

“Prior to working here, I was a manager at Auto Zone. I love helping people, and they appreciate it. You can see it in people’s faces. But I didn’t feel I could run a business the way I wanted to. Here I feel I have more ownership in it.  I am so thankful that I came to Omnitrans. I enjoy what I do, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I work with great departments and a great staff down here. I never dread coming to work.

“I like the consistency,” he explains. “I’d like to think that if someone came in and worked along beside me that the process would be very clear. For example, one of the things I’ve always said is that if your boss wants something turned in by Tuesday, you turn it in on Monday.  If they want to know what has the highest rate of recovery, I can be that quick in turning in numbers.

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Frank Flores

Employee of the Quarter Frank Flores and his proud family

“I also like the fact that I’m often working with the manufacturers now instead of just going through the vendor. By going direct, I’m able to skip the middle-man and build up direct relationships with the manufacturers. Not only does it help our recovery process, it’s been beneficial to them as well. If a part is consistently having problems, we’re able to demonstrate that to them. That helps them identify the issue and make improvements.”

But what means the most to Frank is the impact his work has on Omnitrans riders.

“I recognize most of the coach numbers when I see them on the street,” he says. “And it feels good to realize that that I have played a part in keeping that vehicle on the road. All of us are working together as a team to make sure those passengers aren’t stranded. That’s the most important thing. That’s why we do what we do.”

 – Juno Kughler Carlson
  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Bus-Master-white-background

Employee of the Quarter Mae Sung

Mae Sung  head shot

When Accounting Manager Mae Sung heard that she was being honored as Employee of the Quarter for her exceptional work , she reacted with astonishment.

“It was very surprising to me because I just felt I was doing my job,” she confessed. “And I was amazed at how my team all came to support me. I definitely can be hard on them sometimes because I hold them to such high standards.  But I also hold myself to those same standards and never ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”

Mae’s management style is to lead by example. She never balks at taking on any job, large or small, because she views it as an opportunity to learn. Her energy, positive attitude and willingness to chip in wherever needed inspire her team to do the same. Everyone is encouraged to cross-train to gain a better understanding of each other’s jobs.

DSC_0604

From left to right: Omnitrans CEO and GM P. Scott Graham, Employee of the Quarter Mae Sung, Board Chair Allan Wapner and Finance Director Donald Walker

“We are more than a good working team,” she points out. ”We are like family. We work well together and all of us genuinely care about each other. Every single one of us has a specific skill that contributes to the whole. If any part is missing we cannot complete our work. We understand this and respect each person for their contribution.”

Mae believes that open communication is the key to the department’s success.

“Wednesday mornings we have our staff meeting, and free speech is always encouraged. We talk about business and sometimes we’re all in agreement and sometimes we disagree. But we discuss what’s going on and let them know what is expected by the company, by each department, our boss, a board member, whatever the case may be. In the end, we all have a clear understanding of our goals and how we will attain them.”

Mae and team

Mae proudly poses with members of the finance team

Often the biggest challenge Mae faces has to do with gathering the information she needs from the various departments.

“Not everyone understands finance and accounting, so sometimes I have to nudge other departments into cooperating with us. We are held to tight deadlines that they don’t have. For example we have a deadline for payroll. We want to be sure everyone is paid accurately and in a timely manner. We have deadlines to pay vendors and have to collect invoices from each department in order to make payment. I don’t want to receive a phone call about a past due invoice. Sometimes I have to personally walk down to the departments to prompt them, but I think they understand that’s my job.”

Mae desk

In her private time, Mae enjoys music and travel. She has been to Japan, Taiwan, China and is looking forward to touring Europe. Most recently she had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Italy.

“I was looking forward to listening to some of the famous operas in Italy, but I was disappointed. It was too crowded and I didn’t have the time. But I did get to enjoy some of the live bands—such beautiful music and talented artists.”

Music has always been an important part of Mae’s life. Growing up she was trained in classical music and played piano.

”I don’t have time for it now, but I dream that later after my retirement I can do that again. There’s a deep joy that comes from playing the piano. That type of music is so soothing and brings you a quiet peace. I live in Corona and always set my radio to 91.5 FM the classical music station during the commute. I love it.”

Finance Director Donald Walker with Employee of the Year Mae Sung

Finance Director Donald Walker with Employee of the Year Mae Sung

Still, Mae can’t bring herself to don earphones in the office to listen to music. “I can’t do it,” she laughs. “It makes me feel cut off. I have to hear everything that’s going on outside the door. They might need me for something.”

Although Mae has worked at Omnitrans for more than 9 years, she is still passionate about what she does and it shows.

“I love my work because I like to give people a better understanding of their financial situation,” she explains. “Companywide, people spend but they don’t have the big picture. Our goal is to collect information from each department, analyze it, readjust it, classify it, and illustrate it with diagrams and beautiful pictures and compile it into a report. This way everyone is aware of how much we earn, how much we spend, and what’s in our future.”

Mae and Don1

Don and Mae share a laugh together. “She is such a pleasure to work with and is truly deserving of this award,” Don tells us.

In fact, since 2006 when Mae and her boss, Director of Finance Donald Walker, first joined Omnitrans, every annual comprehensive financial report they have put together has earned the agency top awards.

“Don and I work very well together. I feel so lucky to have such a nice boss. From the beginning, he has always given me room to grow. He’s not controlling like many other bosses but is very understanding. He gives me the space to go ahead and do whatever I think I should do and encourages me to expand this position into something more.”

Mae and team2

The team teases Mae: “We celebrated your award at lunch without you. But the waitress sent her best wishes.”

Laughter and conversation erupt in the outer office as team members gather together to have a group photo made with Mae. She smiles.

“Omnitrans is a very nice company to work for,” she says. “There is room for people to grow and move up, and people are allowed to be themselves. I’m happy here, and I think all of our finance team is happy too.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Diane Bojorquez: Employee of the Quarter

Diane Bojorquez is honored as Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Omnitrans CEO P. Scott Graham, Marketing Director Wendy Williams, Employee of the Quarter Diane Bojorquez and Board Chair Alan Wapner

What do you do when your department undergoes a restructure that doubles your workload? If you’re Diane Bojorquez, you roll up your sleeves and rise to the challenge. On November 5th, she was honored as Employee of the Quarter creating and implementing a hugely successful fare change communication plan.

“It’s been an interesting few months,” admits Diane. “With the reorganization, we eliminated a staff position, which then added pass sales distribution responsibilities to my list of duties. At the same time, we were preparing for our first fare increase in five years, so it was critical to streamline our process and come up with a good communication plan.”

Diane Bojorquez,  photographer Juno Kughler CarlsonDiane’s first priority was to personally visit each of our more than 80 pass vendors to let them know she would be servicing their accounts directly, which would cut down on the turnaround time for order fulfillment. It also gave her the opportunity to talk with them about the upcoming fare change well in advance and to answer any questions they might have.

“I knew that spending time with each of these businesses and re-establishing relationships with them was going to be the single most important thing I could do,” explains Diane. “It’s all about building a community where our partners feel supported. I wanted to be face-to face with them so they could associate Omnitrans with a real person who wanted to take the time to get to know them and understand their needs.”

Her efforts paid off.  Vendor feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Orders are now streamlined and processed within hours rather than days, and pass outlet sales have grown 13% year to date.

Diane then turned her attention to the online store. In order to change over product prices, she knew the store would need to be temporarily closed for business for 2 days prior to the fare change. With the help of her team, she sent letters to mail order customers notifying them of the online store closure and enclosing a chart that compared current and upcoming fare prices.

Diane Bojorquez celebrates with family and friends,  photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Employee of the Quarter revelry with Jonathan Bojorquez, Diane Bojorquez, Tembi Tovar, Melissa Castillo, Diana Duran and Lilliann Duran

By anticipating customer needs before they arose and delivering outstanding personal customer service, Diane ensured our 2014 fare change went smoothly, and that there were no complaints related to outlet or online store fare media. Online store revenues were up 35% in September versus last year.

“None of it could have happened without the support of my team,” Diane points out. “Tembi Tovar, our administrative secretary, made the rounds with me to the outlets and helped process orders. Our receptionists Susie Perez, Lucy Gonzales-Brown and Liz Calderon made sure our walk-in customers had the fare change information in their hands, processed exchanges and helped answer questions. It was definitely a group effort, and I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time.”

Diane celebrates her 10 year anniversary with Marketing Director Wendy Williams (left) and Customer Service Manager Melissa Castillo (right)

This year Diane celebrated her 10th  anniversary with Omnitrans. She has over 37 years in the transit industry, including 27 years with LA Metro, where she began as a 19-year-old information clerk.

“Transit has been a great career for me,” says Diane. “And I like the fact it’s allowed me to change and grow along with it. Technology has changed a lot since 1975, but I was fortunate enough to receive on-the-job training that gave me the skills I needed to adapt. Omnitrans is very good about encouraging employees to develop leadership skills and come up with new ideas that can help the agency.”

Two years ago, Diane participated in a Leadership Achievement Program at Omnitrans, where she developed an audio advertising project.  The project would enable short, GPS triggered audio advertisements or public service messages on buses at carefully spaced intervals. This month, her project was approved for implementation.

Diane and family, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Diane Bojorquez and her children Diana and Jonathan

“I’m really excited about it,” she laughs. “It’s been such a long process, that I can hardly believe it’s finally happening! It will bring in additional revenue at absolutely no cost to the agency. It also provides a location-based service to our customers.  For example, they might learn that a nearby drugstore is offering low cost flu shots or that a restaurant is offering 2-for-1 specials for riders who show them a bus pass. It’s a simple way we can add value for our passengers.”

In her private life Diane is all about family. Her daughter Diana, son Jonathan, and granddaughter Lilliann were all on hand to cheer her on during her award presentation.  Diane proudly shows off a photo of an intensely focused Lilliann striking a catching stance in her softball uniform. “She’s the only girl on the team,” she grins. “I love that she’s so independent. She knows what she wants and goes for it! Kind of like her Grammy.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Diane Bjorquez and grandaughter Lilliann,  photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Strong independent women run in the family: Diane Bojorquez and granddaughter Lilliann

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter: sbX dispatcher Robert Avant

Omnitrans sbX dispatcher Robert Avant

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Robert Avant is a man of many talents: artist, writer, musician, coach operator, coach operator instructor and relief dispatcher. But with our BRT launch last April, he claimed a new title for himself as the “Maestro” of sbX.

One look at the sbX dispatch monitor, and it’s easy to understand the musical reference. A symphony of 60-foot coaches moves in sequence along the route, carefully guided by the dispatcher to ensure proper rhythm and flow. If the vehicles start to bunch in one area or a gap begins to separate them, the dispatcher must coordinate their movements to bring them back into balance.

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Robert Avant

Robert Avant with Director of Operations Diane Caldera

“sbX is based on frequency rather than on time points, and there are many factors that come into play to affect the system,” points out Robert. “Traffic patterns and passenger load can change the timing of a vehicle. A coach operator who is transporting two wheelchair passengers, for example, will need extra time for loading and unloading. Traffic backed up at an intersection or unexpected detours can also cause delays. Every day is something different, but that keeps it interesting.”

Robert’s skills were put to the test during the initial launch of the sbX BRT service, when the system faced several unexpected challenges. The Traffic Signal Prioritization (TSP) system did not work as expected, delaying many articulated coaches along the corridor. In addition, not all Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were functioning correctly. This caused coaches not to appear, or appear inaccurately, on the dispatcher’s corridor map monitor.

Omnitrans sbX dispatcher Robert Avant

This made Robert’s job as sbX dispatcher incredibly difficult. He maintained clear communication with coach operators, field supervisors, management and other departments to keep them apprised of the issues. He worked as best he could with dispatch’s GPS tracking system and radio to locate and track each coach along the corridor. When he identified a delay or coach bunching, he quickly coordinated with Operators to put them back on time to meet the riding public’s expectations.

Robert also helped create a monitoring system within a detailed sbX Dispatch Daily roster form to track and maintain service reliability and to ensure that shift exchanges and meal breaks occurred as expected. Once the system was up and running, Robert quickly and effectively cross-trained other dispatchers on these sbX dispatching procedures, broadening the department’s flexibility and reliability in coverage and increasing efficiency when dealing with unplanned absences, illnesses or emergencies.

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Robert Avant

A few members of our wonderful dispatch team: Ed Cooney, Mark Bueche, Robert Avant and Ronnie Davis

“Before this system was put into place, we were trying to track information on seven different forms,” explains Robert. “There was no centralized resource for information. Now everything is recorded in one place so we can quickly see what needs to happen and what availability is at any given time.”

“Robert played an important role in jump starting the sbX system when it went live in April,” says Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera. “His contributions and problem-solving abilities helped ensure that the sbX service we provide is the sbX service that was advertised. We are so proud to honor him as Employee of the Quarter.”

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Robert Avant

Although he loves the variety and demands of dispatch, Robert also enjoys the personal connections he makes as a coach operator instructor. “I like helping people build their confidence and develop their skills. I try to create an atmosphere of trust where they feel comfortable learning. My policy is what happens on the bus during training stays on the bus. I’m not going to yell at anyone or later tell a supervisor that they asked a stupid question. There are no stupid questions.”

Creativity and spirituality are a huge part of Robert’s life. In his private time, he sketches portraits and paints still-life scenes. He’s also working on a self-help book, “Becoming The Best You.”

“I believe any challenge can be overcome,” says Robert. “It just takes dedication, discipline and the desire to succeed.”

Omnitrans sbX dispatcher Robert Avant

Do you like this story and want to share it on your blog or newsletter?  All of our articles may be freely shared with others.

Have a great Omnitrans story to share? Email Juno Carlson at juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Omnitrans Coach Operator Lorina Le’Roy

Do company wellness programs really make a difference? It did for Lorina Le’Roy who was honored this month as the Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter for her dedication and caring in her role as coach operator and for her contributions in creating a positive workplace environment.

When Lorina had her health numbers checked at the Omnitrans Wellness Fair two years ago, she was surprised to learn that her blood pressure was high and her blood sugar was out of control. The health care representatives from Kaiser suspected diabetes and recommended that she schedule a visit with her doctor as soon as possible. Since she hadn’t had a complete physical in some time, Lorina took their advice and decided to go ahead and set up a full checkup.

During her medical visit, Lorina happened to mention to her doctor that she was suddenly lactating for no apparent reason. The doctor immediately brought in two specialists who explained to her that lactation not associated with pregnancy or childbirth is often a sign of a brain tumor.

A CAT scan showed that Lorina had a benign tumor about the size of an eraser tip in the front crease of her brain. The doctors told her it was very normal and not something she should be afraid of. They did want her to come in every six months, however, to be sure it didn’t get any bigger. If they started to see growth they could give her pills to help shrink it or they could go up her nasal cavity to remove it surgically. They tested her vision and cleared her as safe for driving.

“I go for an MRI every 6 months, and so far everything’s been fine,” says Lorina. “I don’t worry about it anymore. It’s the diabetes that worries me. I found out I had high blood pressure, needed to take cholesterol pills, was diabetic and had a brain tumor all in that one day.”

It was a wake-up call that she needed to start taking care of herself.

“My diabetes was uncontrolled for the longest time. I finally got it under control by eating healthier and walking . A lot of us girls around here just recently started exercising, and there’s about 11 of us who have bet going on.  Whoever loses the most weight gets a spa treatment. Sometimes it’s hard and I’ll call one of the girls and say I’m not doing so good. She’ll say I’m not either—and we talk and laugh. It’s good because I know it’s not just me. We all struggle with our weight–especially bus drivers—because we sit all day long. You sit and snack and most of the time don’t eat healthy. I was telling one of the girls that it’s funny how your lunch bag is too small for healthy food. Yet when you eat crap it’s the perfect size. My lunch bag is always overflowing because I bring an apple, a pear, carrots and a salad.”

“The Omnitrans Wellness Fair really opened my eyes. Thank God I went. Everything was really out of whack, and I never would have known. I was ignoring a lot of symptoms. For years I had been telling my doctor that I was having migraines. We tried all kinds of treatments but nothing worked. At one point he even wanted to give me shots in my skull! No way was I ready for that! It turns out my migraines were actually caused by the tumor.”

In addition to making healthier lifestyle choices, Lorina found she had a renewed sense of purpose.

“When you find out something that horrible about yourself, you want to somehow make things better.  For me, it became about work. At the time, morale was very low. People were coming to work always down, never really feeling alive. My whole thing was to try to uplift everybody. You start thinking what can we do to make the world better? How can we make it happy? How could we make everybody one?”

“It started with cleaning. I’ve always been a cleaner. You know how it always makes you feel better about yourself when you clean your house your car? First I did the windows in dispatch, then the tables in the drivers’ room. Then I went to the kitchen and thought we really need some condiments in here. I starting buying small things for the lunchroom: condiments, napkins, forks spoons and knives. It’s the kind of thing most people really appreciate. Occasionally the supplies run low, and people will ask where this thing or that is. But then it makes me feel good because they say ‘Where’s Lorina? She hasn’t been to work because it’s empty in here.’” Lorina laughs.  “I did it mainly for me. Some people tell me it’s a waste of my money. But it’s not. It’s important to me and makes me feel good.”

“It’s why I like doing the decorations. It’s a way for us to mark the holidays. Years used go by and nobody could remember what we did last Christmas. We all work, work, work , work and then we lose track of things. Especially last year around this time, when a lot of drivers were working seven days a week. Some of them just work, go home and go to sleep. They’re not going to the store or out shopping and it’s easy for them to forget the holidays are coming up. So this is a way to just boost up everybody and get them involved. It does make a difference. The Christmas tree decorating contest we recently did was so much fun for everyone, that they’re already talking about what they want to do next year! It’s really created a sense of community.”

“It is so exciting to get Employee of the Quarter. What really blew me away was that a lot of drivers really wanted me to have that award–it me feel really loved and supported. I’ve also gotten to know a lot of people from all the different departments by doing the potlucks and decorations, and I really enjoy that.  We never really interacted a lot before, and now we do. We’re all Omnitrans, and we do this job to help serve our community. It’s a good feeling.”

Omnitrans CEO Scott Graham (left) and Board Chair Alan Wapner (right) present Lorina with the Employee of the Quarter Award

Having worked for Omnitrans for more than 16 and ½ years, Lorina believes there are good opportunities here for people who might be having a difficult time finding work or who don’t want a traditional desk job.

“I would recommend being a coach operator to anyone. It’s actually a great professional career for someone who might not have a lot of education but who needs a good paying job.  If you enjoy driving and have great people skills, this is the job to come to. If you can drive a car, you can drive a bus, you really can. “

Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!