Troubleshooter: Unpaid workers get holiday surprise

DURHAM (WTVD) -- They went without pay for three weeks, but still continued to do their job. Now some of these workers got a special surprise for their dedication.

"It was a very nice surprise. I was not expecting that when I opened it. I was like, 'Really,'" said custodian worker Harriett Leslie, talking about a check for more than $300 that she got from the staff, parents and PTA at Hope Valley Elementary School.

"We love these people. We appreciate our custodial staff, and we wanted to do what we could to help them," added Sally Barnett, a teacher's assistant at Hope Valley.

The school wanted to help their cleaning crew after learning from one of my previous stories that their team of seven custodial staff members didn't get paid.

The seven workers were part of more than 100 workers who didn't get paid from the company they worked for, Integrity Facilities Management, Inc. Integrity is based in Durham and was a sub-contractor for a company that Durham Public Schools contracted to clean several of their schools.

Just last month, Integrity filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and stopped paying their workers, including these workers at Hope Valley Elementary. Despite not getting paid, they kept doing their job.

"They did not come forward and tell us what was going on. They didn't want to act like they were asking for anything, and they didn't," said Barnett.

Barnett got together with the Hope Valley PTA and came up with a plan to collect money to give to their custodial staff.

"We had some very, very gracious families that donated. We had staff that was donating. It was such a community support so I feel very blessed that they really opened their hearts, because they open our hearts every day," said Beth Wood, President of the PTA.

More than $3,000 was collected, and the workers were not only surprised when they opened their cards from the Hope Valley Elementary community but thankful.

"I was really surprised by it. Someone stepped in, and to do that for the whole staff, kind of takes your real back," said worker Dwayne Header.

"Thank you very much, it's going to make my Christmas much happier," Leslie added.

A new company took over Integrity Facilities Management, Inc, and the workers are getting paid again. As for the money they're owed from Integrity, workers do have to fill out the paperwork from the bankruptcy court to see if those funds will ever be paid.

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