Carl Brown once rifled through a dumpster filled with dozens of trash bags to find a ring that a student had accidentally thrown away.
As luck would have it, the ring was in the very first bag he searched through. But he would have gone through them all until he found it.
“I went through the bag and found the ring and gave it to her, and she was so happy,” said Brown, a custodian at Auburn Early Education Center. “And that just made my day, too.”
Brown has been with Auburn City Schools since 1991, starting as a bus driver before becoming a custodian at the elementary school in 1993. He likes the job so much he’s never left.
“I enjoy being with the kids and being around the kids,” said Brown, 54. “That has a lot to do with it.”
Brown is responsible for cleaning and sanitizing the school and making sure it’s ready and welcoming for the upcoming school day.
He gets to the school at about 6 a.m., unlocks the doors and turns on the lights.
He cleans the bathrooms, empties the garbage cans and replenishes any dwindling supplies — behind the scenes tasks that help contribute to the success of the school and keep it running smoothly.
“If I’m not here and most of the doors are not open and stuff, it’ll make the day a little different for some people,” Brown said. “I think it makes people feel better, and makes people feel more safe and secure when they come (into) the building.”
Brown likes working around children because they’re friendly and provide you with unconditional love.
He greets students with a smile and a “Good morning!” and in return they give him high-fives, fist bumps and hugs.
Some have even helped him take out the garbage.
“If I can make a kid happy or make a kid smile or make a kid’s day, I’m all in with that,” Brown said.
Principal Matt Bruner said Brown is a good worker who takes a vested interest in people. Though he’s a quiet man, he will go out of his way to ask people how they’re doing.
“People are very comfortable with Mr. Carl, feel very proud to call him their friend,” Bruner said.
He’s also a talented guitarist.
“He played for us at our December pep rally and did awesome,” Bruner said. “(He) played a little Christmas song for us and for all the students this year which really got us in the holiday spirit.”
Having been with the school district for 30 years, Brown has seen his fair share of students grow up and become adults in the community. Some people remember him. Some don’t.
He misses the days when Auburn Early Education Center was the only school in the district that taught kindergarten because he had the opportunity to interact with all the students in the city, not just those who live in that school zone. The school now teaches 472 students in grades K-2.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth around here,” Brown said of the school. “When I first came there wasn’t a multi-purpose room, there wasn’t a cafeteria down here. They added two different wings since I’ve been here.”
Brown has occasionally caught people looking at him in public, trying to piece together where they might have seen him or know him from.
There also have been times where he’s been in a store, and students have run up and hugged him. He’s had to explain to their parents or grandparents who he is and how he knows them.
“I can say, through all of this, I have run across a lot of good people and a lot of great kids,” Brown said. “Some of them grow up and then some of them remember and some don’t. But that’s going to be the highlight.
“You work. You do your job. You might not set out, but you meet good people along the way.”
Brown was recognized with a 30 year service pin during a pep rally Thursday, May 20, at Auburn Early Education Center.