The Journal Gazette
Thursday, August 15, 2019 1:00 am

Seen under the sun

Workers enjoy jobs most visible during summer

Lydia Braswell | For The Journal Gazette

Fun in the sun is what makes a great summer – but it comes with responsibility for workers whose jobs are most visible in the hot season.

Kelsey Peck has been a lifeguard for three summers at North Side Pool and has taken on the leadership role of head lifeguard this season.

As the head lifeguard, Peck is the person to go to when anyone on staff has an issue. If the manager isn't at the pool, she takes on the role by checking on chemicals in the water and making sure staff and customers have everything they need for a good day.

“It's not just somewhere people feel like they are just 'here,'” Peck says. “It's somewhere you want to make sure they feel welcome to come back because we want to make sure that they're having a good time.”

The most challenging part of the summer job, she says, is the heat. Safety is the No. 1 priority for both staff and the public, so Peck and her co-workers have to remember to stay hydrated and stay cool. 

But being a lifeguard has rewards for Peck such as “being able to build relationships through a job that doesn't even really feel like a job anymore.”

Preparing for the heat starts when the weather is still freezing for Jenny Barney, director of aquatics.

“It's a funny juggling act. Around December is when I really start the position, and it's kind of crazy to think, 'Oh my gosh, it's not even Christmas!'” says Barney, who has been part of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department for 21 years.

The pools have closed for the summer.

Teaching at the zoo

The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo is loved by kids and adults alike – and Sarah Cox is dedicated to keeping the experience memorable. As aquatics supervisor, her summer duties are a key part of the zoo experience.

From April to October, Cox gives keeper chats. She can be found with the aquatic animals such as penguins and sea lions telling their stories, sharing fun facts and answering questions. It is most common to see her hanging out with the otters, she says, because those are her favorite animals and they love to show off.

The zoo's mission is “Connecting kids and animals, strengthening families and inspiring people to care.” During the summer, Cox keeps the mission part of the zoo's summertime atmosphere by “diving down deeper into more animal care,” which she explains as educating people on endangered species and protected animals alike. When she gets a chance to be on the same side of the glass as the animals, she takes every opportunity to engage the audience and teach them about the creatures she takes care of.

The circle of life has happy beginnings that she looks forward to sharing with families at the zoo, but it can be a challenge to address when something happens to an animal in the summertime. Cox says people do notice when an animal hasn't been out for a while, and in order to keep the environment as upbeat as possible, she spins the conversation positively to focus on the good.

The most rewarding part of summer work for Cox is being able to spread the positivity.

“If I'm conveying the message to a little one, that might get them interested for the future and be zoologists down the road,” she says.

At a greenhouse

Settled at the corner of Maplecrest and Lake roads is a botanical paradise for plant lovers that brothers Brian and Blake Young have owned since 2015.

Young's Greenhouse and Flower Shop is open year-round, but the outdoor gardens are managed when the snowy season ends. The summer is dedicated to maintaining plant life and preparing to last through the next winter.

Hard work is necessary to succeed in an outdoor setting where Blake Young says taking the time to hydrate and rest from the heat is essential. Spring is the busiest retail season for the Young brothers, so the summer is a transition period between spring sales and fall crops.

With the nearly unpredictable weather Fort Wayne has had this season, it has been a challenge at Young's to plan out when to take on outdoor tasks. With continuous scattered showers and deadlines to meet, the Young brothers spent the hottest week in Fort Wayne putting 360 spikes into the gravel to create a weed barrier.

Summer work reaps unique benefits for gardeners.

“You're not stuck in an office,” Brian Young says. Blake adds, “You get to sweat. I love to sweat! I couldn't imagine working someplace where you couldn't get to sweat; ... if you spend all day inside of the air conditioning, it's not right.”

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