At Work : Stacy Strelecki
Stacy Strelecki was lucky on a Tuesday morning last month. The cold and wind can hit like a linebacker along the bulkhead in Oak Bluffs harbor at 4 am in winter. Several inches of snow had fallen, but it wasn't extremely cold or windy.
The Patriot, as it has for the past 36 years, nosed into the dock, and Ms. Strelecki, 35, joined a handful of people emerging from warm cars to unload the boat and begin delivering newspapers to Island homes and stores. She is cheery at 4 am.
Delivering newspapers is a difficult, relentless seven-day-a-week job. No excuses. The money is decent and it's a year-round job, three or four hours a day, but you have to be willing to get up in the middle of the night every night and work in the dark and in bad weather. Turnover is high.
A hardy, resourceful, third-generation Islander, Ms. Strelecki has shown up for work every day for 16-plus years, longer than any of her colleagues has done this work. Her mother, Marsha Brown, who delivers in West Tisbury, is second in seniority, with six years.
Q: Tell us about your job?
A: I got the Gay Head route when I started, and now it's been Edgartown for the past 12 years. We only had three delivery people when I started. I had over 500 papers back then. It's grown. Now we have seven people. I have one of biggest routes. I've worked other jobs as well, but this is the constant.
Q: How did you get started?
A: A friend got me a job as a substitute. I delivered to retail stores for a while before I got a route. I was the delivery supervisor for a while, eight or nine months, but I didn't like it and went back to delivering.
Q: What's the toughest part of your job?
A: To me, nothing is that tough. I've seen the best and the worst, worked in blizzards and hurricanes. We were raised to be hard workers in my family. You show up and do the work, no matter what. I've been sick a few times and I got someone to help load the papers and went on the route, explaining where to deliver the papers. Communication between here and there (Falmouth offices) can be difficult, and you have to keep up with delivery stops and starts. Staying awake is important. I don't have a problem with that, but I've known two people over the years that fell asleep and crashed doing their routes.
Q: What is the best part?
A: The paycheck. That and I get to be home every day with my kids. As a single mother, I want to be there for them. I support myself. There is no money for childcare or summer camp in the budget. I took this job and did healthcare and housecleaning because of the kids. I have three boys, Reece (18), Kenny (almost 13), and Brandon (nine). Reece and Kenny help me deliver sometimes, and they are good about it. They liked it a lot when they were younger.
Q: What would you rather be doing when you think that you would rather be doing something else?
A: That's easy. I worked at Windemere (Nursing and Rehabilitation Center) for a while as a certified nursing assistant. I'd really love to be a certified medical assistant, but that requires more education, time, and money than I have now. Medical assistant is definitely a goal for me when the kids are a little older.
At Work is an occasional column about neighbors and what they do to earn their livings. It doesn't matter what the job is, whether it's a big job or a small one, has a title or doesn't. We're interested in what you do every day, and what you think about it. If you think your line of work is interesting, or you have a suggestion of someone whose working life will fit At Work, please contact Nelson Sigelman, the managing editor.