Two things at work give Alphonso “Choo Choo” Calhoun, housekeeper II in environmental services, great satisfaction: creating a clean safe environment and singing. For Choo Choo, singing while working always goes hand in hand, making it easier to meet any challenge or deadline with a smile on his face. In fact, if Choo Choo isn’t singing, co-workers ask him what’s wrong and assume he’s not well.
After 17 years of creating lasting positive impressions for hospital patients, visitors and staff, Choo Choo will retire on Oct. 31. He leaves with a song in his heart and a sense of satisfaction from working with many people who were like family to him.
What brought you to Children’s?
I wanted to earn extra money and when a friend told me Children’s was hiring, I applied. For the first 3 years, I worked part-time at Children’s because I also worked full-time at the University of Akron, a job I held for 31 years before retiring from it.
What was going on in your life then?
My wife and I were raising our family, and we had just bought a house on Akron’s west side. I also took turns with my siblings cutting my parents’ grass–it took 2 hours–and helped my dad and mom maintain their house as they got older.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
In environmental services, I was a housekeeper I, then a housekeeper II. Over the years, I’ve worked in many areas of the hospital, including the burn center, PICU and the hematology/oncology unit. Currently, I’m a housekeeper for the Kay Jewelers Pavilion.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
Patients sometimes heard me quietly singing while doing my work, and some asked me to sing for them. One girl, Emily, used to ask what the song of the day was, and I’d sing something new for her. Another time, a woman in the burn center asked me to sing “Amazing Grace.” I learned she later died. Her family said I sent her home the right way.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
Being able to be myself and knowing my work is important to the hospital. I have a strong work ethic and take pride in what I do. I’ve always treated my work as if I was creating an atmosphere for my own grandchildren. I always thought, “Where would you want them to be?” I want them to be in a nice, clean place.
What’s your most memorable moment at Akron Children’s?
I participated in the hospital’s Akron Idol 4 times, and won 2nd place one year. It was fun to showcase my talents–one time in a duet and another time I sang a cappella. I enjoyed how my co-workers and I bonded during these shows.
With so many little children here, did someone especially touch your heart?
So many of the children have touched me deeply. They’re champions, no matter what they face. They don’t act as if they feel sorry for themselves, and have taught me to do the same.
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
My wife knows I want to lose weight, so she’s buying different foods and we’re preparing it differently. Besides getting healthier, I’m looking forward to enjoying music, singing and being with my family. My wife and I have plans to travel to Phoenix and Los Angeles in February. Next year, we want to travel to South Africa.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A drama-free day.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Don’t listen to negative people. Maintain a positive mental attitude and follow your own mind.
What couldn’t you live without?
The Lord Jesus in my life.
What’s on your iPod?
Rock and roll, jazz, R& B and country music.
What’s the last book you read?
“Muscle and a Shovel” by Michael Shank.
What’s the last movie you saw?
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Enjoy time with my family and grandchildren.
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