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Azeze becomes a landscape leader at Cleanslate

Being a single mom of six is what motivates Azeze, especially in the face of hardship. In the past year alone, she and her family confronted seemingly insurmountable challenges, from health scares to housing insecurity. But Azeze is overcoming every obstacle, excelling in both her essential roles as a mother and as a leader at Cleanslate.

“I first learned about Cleanslate in the summer of 2017. Up to that point I worked in home care, but I wanted to experiment in different fields; I wasn’t getting any younger. Within my first week at Cleanslate, I went straight to landscaping and quickly found it to be my field – a job I loved.

“I’ve always been a very outgoing person, a loving person. I have lived in Chicago all my life, so I enjoyed meeting people in neighborhoods across this city while working on my landscaping jobs. They would start conversations with me, and at the end, they always told me how much they loved my spirit.

“After I gained valuable experience at Cleanslate, I decided to try out other career paths, working at Walmart and driving a Pace bus. I learned a lot on those jobs, but they weren’t Cleanslate; my landscaping job was really what I loved most.

“Then the pandemic hit and really impacted my family.

“My auntie, my grandma, and my twelve-year-old caught COVID-19. By February 2020, I too had a health crisis: a serious heart attack. I was living in a shelter at the time, so Catholic Charities helped me find an apartment where my two youngest kids and I could live and recover.

“I needed to go back to work, but I needed something that wasn’t going to stress me out. That’s why I returned to Cleanslate; and my skills came right back, too. My kids told me, ‘Mom, I’m glad you are back there. The other jobs were stressing you out.’

“It means a lot to me and my family to be an essential worker. I’m helping our communities by cleaning them up. When I finish cutting the grass, I always take a picture of my work. Always. 

“My kids and I are looking to the future : my seven-year-old dreams of being a teacher and my twelve-year-old wants to be a police officer. As for me, I plan on staying with Cleanslate and working hard to become a Cleanslate Crew Chief one day.”