Where We Live: The PDX carpet caretakers


Meet the folks who maintain the Portland International Airport

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland International Airport has always been rated among the best in the nation, and one thing Portlanders are most proud of is its famous carpet. The people who keep that carpet looking its best are people with disabilities.

Sean Haman at work at the Portland International Airport (KOIN)

The PDX airport is a bustling city within a city, where thousands of passengers tread on 13 acres of locally-designed, teal carpet every day. With colors and patterns signifying the Northwest, many Oregonians regard it as part of our landscape. So, it’s not surprising that the janitors who keep it looking good take pride in what they do.

“Oh man, it’s real exciting,” said Sean Haman, a member of the PDX janitorial crew. “You get to see a lot of different people every day. I get to work all over this building.”

“It makes me feel so happy,” said Mayra Estrada, another crew member. “So nice when people, you know, make good comments about everything and everything looks so nice in the airport—especially the carpet.”

Mayra Estrada at work at the Portland International Airport. (KOIN)

Haman and Estrada are among more than 100 people who clean every part of this airport as part of a contract with Relay Resources. The non-profit provides jobs, training, and hope to people with disabilities. Relay employs 800 people—500 in janitorial—in both government and private contracts, including PDX. Formerly known as Portland Habilitation Center, they’ve been around since 1951.

“We’ve always focused on people with disabilities and other barriers to employment,” said Tiffini Mueller with Relay Resources. “We train and hire people with disabilities and other barriers to employment, and we build and manage affordable housing.”

For Estrada, Haman, and other Relay Resources employees at PDX, it’s more than a job.

“We all treat this like our home,” said Cameron Steward who works in maintenance and landscaping. “And when those awards come out every year and they win, we share that news with our team. You can see everybody feels, you know, a part of that. So, I think that pride is echoed throughout all the employees here, and I mean, that’s good for Portland, too.”

Relay Resources team members (Courtesy Relay Resources)

The PDX carpet was last replaced in 2015 and has strong echoes of the old carpet. Much of that carpet was repurposed and became a collector’s item.

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