One person doing one thing at a time can make a difference. Consider the story of Steve Slaughter, custodian at the First Presbyterian Church of Ionia.  

This story was featured on WOOD-TV by Justin Kollar and it was posted on Apr 27, 2020 / 06:29 AM EDT / Updated: Apr 27, 2020 / 07:59 AM EDT

IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Everyday heroes have emerged amid the coronavirus pandemic, some at hospitals, some just down the street making others smile. It’s helped unify communities and show everyone they have a part to play. 

One such hero is working hard in Ionia to protect others, especially front line heroes themselves. 

Steve Slaughter was a part-time contracted custodian at the Ionia Department of Public Safety. He would sanitize the building and the patrol cars roughly once a week with a disinfectant spray machine. He even volunteered to do it for free.

“I just see the need and I approached the need as my responsibility,” Slaughter said. “I’m willing to make a sacrifice if that’s the case that will get things done so we can protect everybody as a whole.”

Director Troy Thomas promoted Slaughter to paid full-time, the global pandemic necessitated the need for the position. 

It’s not an easy job. Slaughter wears a mask and gloves, makes the disinfecting mixture himself from chemicals provided by the department and carries the Gen Eon disinfecting mist machine for hours, spraying down nearly every surface officers come into contact with, some they may not even realize. 

“The mist makes hard to reach areas much more accessible, we’re able to clean everything,” Slaughter said. “It’s reassuring that we have this equipment, now that we can protect the staff, protect the officers, protect the firefighters, that serve the Ionia community so well.”

Thomas says Slaughter’s heart for service doesn’t go unnoticed. The department even posted a picture of Slaughter working to their public Facebook page. 

Steve Slaughter sanitizes an Ionia patrol car with an aerosol mister.
Image Source: Ionia Department of Public Safety posted on their Facebook Page

“That’s not Steve just stepping up during something like this; that’s Steve’s lifestyle, and who he is. If you saw the comments on our Facebook story about this, they’re all the same thing. What a great guy Steve is, helping others,” Thomas said. “That’s just who Steve Slaughter is.”

Hundreds of comments later, the resounding message paints the picture of what the community of Ionia thinks of Slaughter. Selfless, kind, an unsung hero. 

Though Slaughter says he hasn’t acted to earn praise, he appreciates the kindness from the community he loves. 

“Sometimes you get levels of appreciation that make the job go a little easier the next time, but you just do it because it’s there. You just need to do it,” Slaughter said. “It’s just kind of in my blood, to be involved in the community.”

In his first week full time, Slaughter has embraced the role as the first line of defense for everyone who works at the department, risking his own health to keep everyone safe. 

It’s imperative, Thomas says, to continue cleaning daily, as one confirmed case could cripple a department the size of Ionia’s.

“It would devastate a department this size. We could easily lose about half our resources right off the bat,” Thomas said. “Some people may see it as overkill. But I can’t afford to be wrong.”

Slaughter says he’s in it for the long haul and will continue to work every day, cleaning what he can, to protect the heroes we all depend on, behind the scenes.

Another version of this story was also posted on The Detroit News.