In The Spotlight – 30 Years Of Don Wales

August 1, 2022

MHA recently recognized Maintenance Supervisor, Don Wales, for 30years of faithful and dedicated service to MHA and its residents. No other current employee comesclose to Don in seniority and only a handful ofcurrent residents called MHA home back in January 1991,when Don began working in the maintenance department.

A lot has changed at MHA in the last 30 yearand Don is a witness to much of it. As Don explained,“I’ve worked for five different executive directors and seen lots of staff and residents come and go. When I began, our maintenance staff was larger thanit is now. Maintenance worked out of the Spring Brook basement and the Spring Valley community building. We used our own personal tools, and most everyone had to carry their tools and supplies while walking to their assigned duties because we didn’t have motorized carts like now. The large maintenance yard in back, and the maintenance building and garages, did not exist. Even the Spring Brook community building was only vacant space back then.”

Don can also testify to the differences in the makeup of MHA residents.

“When I started, we had only one Hispanic family and four African-American families living at Spring Brook and Spring Valley. It was the same at Hillside. Hardly anyone moved away back then.

”Beyond outlasting many co-workers and residents, Don is known for his relaxed attitude and devoted work ethic. He merely laughed when reminded that he currently supervises maintenance staff who were not born when he started at MHA. And, a running joke at MHA is that Don must be ordered by Executive Director John Afoun to take time off. So, mark the date if you ever ask for Don and he is not at work!

Not many people know that Don is very humble about his professional and personal achievements. For instance, you have to pry out of him that he saved a resident and her baby from an apartment fire many years ago in Spring Brook. Don was an active volunteer firefighter at the time, so it’s no surprise that he instantly jumped into action when he and his coworkers saw smoke pouring out of a 2-story unit across the street from where they were working. He shrugs it off now, but he described how he and co-workers ran over to help.

“They wanted to open the front door and go in, but I told them not to because opening the door would have made the fire a lot worse. Instead, I climbed the metal lattice on the side of the front porch overhang, which had a flat roof at the time, and I reached the second story window. A lady was standing inside at the window and I was ready to help her out when she suddenly went back in!

She was gone for 20-30 seconds and then reappeared with a baby in her hands. She handed me the baby through the open window, and I passed it down to a co-worker waiting on the ground. When the lady tried to exit through the window, however, the outer storm window fell on her, so I had to break it and pull her out. Looking back on it, I don’t know how I did it.

Meanwhile, her brother and other children escaped by jumping or being thrown from a back second-floor window into the waiting arms of other rescuers. Later, I learned that the lady was pregnant at the time.”

Don and other co-workers received a hero citation from the City of Moline for their actions that day. Don also received an award from his home firehouse in Milan.

John Afoun appeared amused as Don tries to explain why he does not want to take the day off being offered to him as a reward for his 30 years of dedicated service.

The Moline Housing Authority is proud to havean experienced hero like Don leading the maintenance department. Although much has changed at MHA over the past 30 years, Don’s reliability, hard work, and commitment to doing his best for MHA and its residents has not. Next time you see Don out and about the grounds, join us in congratulating him for his many yearsof wonderful service to our community.