Featuring: George Bridges, Maintenance Technician, Goodwin House Alexandria

In the movie The Martian, an intense sandstorm devastates a manned mission to Mars, and the crew must abandon the planet, leaving behind astronaut Mark Watney. He is injured but survives and has to ‘MacGyver his way through’ any host of life-threatening situations to survive in the inhospitable climate of the red planet. And, of course, duct tape is involved.

“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.” Andy Weir

Watney uses it to patch a hole in his helmet and to wrap his cuffs to keep oxygen from escaping his spacesuit. He figures out how to grow food and create water. And he finds ingenious ways to survive the inhospitable climate of the red planet and communicate to earth to hatch a rescue plan.

George Bridges (middle) receiving the Ceca Award

George Bridges could have been a fine astronaut. Because, like Watney and MacGyver, George loves fixing things–and he’s darn good at it.

When he was a child, he dreamed of being an astronaut, or a maybe a policeman. But those didn’t work out, and, as he quipped, his “backup plan was maintenance man.” So today, George is an invaluable maintenance technician at Goodwin House (GHA) in Alexandria, VA, and has been for the last 27 years.

George grew up in Washington, DC, where he went to trade school to learn his craft. His interest in fixing things started with a plumbing problem in his house when he was a boy. His parents called a plumber who came and “charged them an arm and a leg.” So George decided to learn how to repair things himself and never pay someone else to do it.

George became very technically talented. As one resident said in his nomination of George for the Ceca Award, “George is one of GHA’s most experienced and competent maintenance technicians – he responds quickly to requests, diagnoses problems, and effects needed repairs. He follows up to make sure residents are completely satisfied, and that everything works perfectly.”

But George is more than just effective. Pleasant, courteous, reliable, friendly, respectful, and kind are just some of the adjectives residents and co-workers use to describe George. Unlike Mars, or the mean streets, Goodwin House is a very nourishing environment, and George finds it a safe place to be kind.

“Sometimes, when you’re on the street, people take your kindness for a weakness,” he explains. “But here, it’s more like a retirement home. All the residents and people you meet remind you of your parents – mother and father— and grandparents. You show love to them, and they make you feel warm. They respect you and make you feel good about yourself. And man, that’s when you give them all you got.”

George loves the residents at Goodwin House, noting, “I’ve met a lot of interesting people here and learn something new every day. Someone always has a story. You’d be amazed what some people did in their life. What titles, what background they have — rocket scientist, researcher, traveled the world!”

Residents and co-workers love George, which is why they keep nominating him for the Ceca Award. As one resident put it, “I got to know George when my own humidifier broke down several months ago, and George brought me a new GHA version. He has returned every other day to replenish it and keep it in good repair. But that was only the beginning. When my ice maker failed, George helped arrange to replace my refrigerator. When my kitchen lights caused problems, George rewired them. He restored my failing Venetian blinds. And he did dozens of other things that helped me cope. Never did he say he was too busy. If there is any other GHA staff member with more empathy, humor, integrity, professionalism, and teamwork, I do not know who it is.”

How did it feel to win the Ceca Award? “It’s an honor,” George said. “It’s always exciting when you win something…a good feeling…some residents knew I won before I won!” George was initially hesitant to nominate a coworker for the Ceca Award—”I couldn’t pick just one!” he quipped. But now that he knows nominations are for anyone who commits an extraordinary act of caregiving, he surely wants to recognize a whole host of his deserving teammates.

George Bridges may not have disarmed a missile with a paper clip, or created a magnifying glass using a hairpin and a wine glass, or used gum foil to reconnect a blown fuse—but odds are he carries a flattened roll of duct tape around in his back pocket, just in case someone he cares about has something that needs fixing.

To schedule an interview with one of our featured caregivers, contact us at prinquiries@cecafoundation.org.