Ryan Turner, Lancaster Condominiums

When Ryan Turner was just a teenager, he not only understood the value of a positive attitude, but he also consistently maintained one as point guard of the conference champion Gage Park High School basketball team.

“Even in the eyes of defeat, you have to see a win coming,” he says. “You put yourself into it and you get to know the inside and out.”

This is the philosophy that he brings to work every day as Doorperson of the Lancaster Condominiums.


Ryan Turner (photo: patton)

“You don’t want to come home and see me with a frown on my face,” he explains. “I’m going to make it real easy. My smile might brighten your day.”

The optimistic outlook has helped Mr. Turner earn personal trust and handle delicate responsibilities throughout his career. Before coming to the Lancaster six months ago, he spent six years working security at TCS Bank locations in Calumet City and in Homewood.

Although he describes the position as somewhat routine, he remembers one particular day on the job as “the wackiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“We had those Keurig coffee machines and you’re only supposed to take one,” he explains. “A lady came into the bank in a post office worker uniform and emptied the whole box into her purse. The branch manager came to me, like he’s supposed to do. The lady was ready to fight, but I calmed her down.”

The assistant bank manager recognized Mr. Turner’s knack for working with people and suggested that he pursue the position at the Lancaster, where her brother-in-law Eric was a member of the door staff.

After receiving the position, he says, “I couldn’t ask for a better building.”

“The people here are lovely,” he continues. “I’m getting to know the residents as well as their dogs and their babies.”

Looking forward, Mr. Turner plans to build a foundation for the future with his girlfriend of two years, Treamaine.

“The whole family loves her,” he explains. “My father doesn’t say much, but when he said he liked her, I knew I had to keep her.”

Likewise, Treamaine appears to hold Mr. Turner in the same high regard: she was the assistant bank manager who encouraged him to seek opportunities at The Lancaster.

“She’s the first and only woman besides my mother to ever help me improve my life,” he says. “She’s the woman I’m gonna marry.”

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Betty Girma, Aqua Condominiums

When Aqua Condominiums Doorperson Betty Girma immigrated from Ethiopia to Chicago in 1989, she experienced more than just a culture shock.

“It was on December 5,” she remembers. “I know it’s cold, I hear it, but when you’re really here… Oh my goodness. I never expected that weather.”

Fortunately, a small but thriving Ethiopian community had firmly established itself — and the culture of its homeland — in the Lakeview neighborhood that she moved into long before she arrived.

IMG_0200webAmong those who populated this touch of eastern Africa in the Windy City was her Aunt Atsede. Aunt Atsede not only helped Betty adjust to life in America, but also provided her the basic necessities to get by.

“My aunt had a restaurant here at 3462 N. Clark,” Betty says. “It was called the Ethiopian Village. She lived upstairs and I lived with her and worked there for like two years.”

Betty enjoyed the same dishes that she had known while growing up in Adis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia.

“The bread, they make it from a grain called peff,” she says. “It’s very heavy.”

She also dined according to the traditional Ethiopian custom.

“Everybody eats together,” she explains. “No fork. No knife. One big plate and everybody eats from that.”

At the same time, she began studying Business Administration at Harold Washington College and eventually earned an associate’s degree.

The neighborhood was also home to The Wild Hare, one of the most popular reggae clubs in Chicago and a big part of the city’s Ethiopian community.

The Wild Hare was co-owned and operated by Zeleke “Zack” Gessessee, an Ethiopian immigrant and former bass player for Ziggy Marley. His sister would one day marry Betty’s brother.

The other co-owner was the brother of one of Betty’s friends. She worked at the Harbor Point Tower grocery store. and, six years ago, told Betty about a doorperson opportunity at the Aqua Condominiums.

At the time, Betty was manager of a parking garage, a job that did not make use of her talents.

“I don’t like sticking in the office,” she explains. “I deal with people and I like them.”

So she applied at the Aqua, got the offer, and quickly turned the lobby into a second home for the tenants.

“It’s not just about ‘hi, bye,’ and smile,” she explains. “Of course, that’s great — that’s customer service — but you should also ask people how are you, how was your day. When people come through this door, I went them to feel like they’re at home.”

And what better way to make people feel at home than by offering them a nice meal.

“I took so many people from Aqua to Ethiopian restaurants and everybody loves it,” she says. “I bring in food. The people here are just like my family.”

When she’s not at work, Betty enjoys spending time with the rest of her family, 17 year-old daughter, Sarah, and 10 year-old son, Rafael.

To nominate your doorperson, please email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

Talina Morris, the Heritage Building

Enter the majestic Heritage Building in Downtown Chicago and you will be greeted by Talina Morris, a friendly and easygoing front desk professional who has been with the property for more than a decade.

Prior to joining the Heritage building, Ms. Morris travelled all over the U.S. with her husband, a soldier who was stationed at various bases across the country. The position at the Heritage provided an opportunity for her to settle down and enjoy what she loves most: “bonding with people.”


Talina Morris. (Photo: Reemaa Konkimalla.)

“Interacting with residents, hearing stories, watching the little ones grow up and shine, and seeing tenants get married are the things that I most enjoy,” she says. “There is excitement every day!”

Her down-to-earth personality and calm presence have made her a favorite among residents. “One has to enjoy being a people person in order to perform this role,” she says.

According to Talina, “patience, being yourself, and a warm smile” are the key components that make a successful door person. “As the first point of contact in the building,” she advises, “remaining calm is one of the greatest qualities to develop.”

Being a door person is also challenging in some ways. “We face challenges, too,” she says, “especially with tricky parking situations in front of the building.”

“Outsiders not living in the building park outside the building and have to be told to vacate so residents can use the space for unloading luggage or groceries,” she continues.

“I constantly keep vigil to make sure no unauthorized person enters the building. Alertness is another one of my responsibilities.”

When not on the job, Talina dotes on her three adorable grandchildren and enjoys changing her hairstyle every now and then so residents get to see a “new Talina.”

“That’s my way to keep the freshness alive in my job,” she exclaims. “Residents love seeing the change time to time!”

To nominate your doorperson, please email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

Reemaa Konkimalla | Community Contributor

Perry Jefferson, Harbor Point Tower

When doorperson of the month Perry Jefferson began working at Harbor Point Condominium Association a decade ago, he soon discovered that the position was unlike any that he had held in the past.

“When I started, I just thought I’d do my job and then go home,” he says. “But you get to know people and they become like family. I never thought that would happen on the job.”

His enthusiasm soon distinguished him as one of the best who had ever held the position, according to Elizabeth Onesto, Harbor Point’s Assistant Property Manager.

IMG_1880web2“He is the greatest example of a perfect lead doorman, a person who you want at every building,” she says. “He’s got such a good, positive attitude. He is attentive. He is friendly. You can never catch him being upset about anything.”

Prior to accepting the position, Mr. Jefferson worked for Sears and David Bancorp Armored Transportation.

“I don’t like firearms,” he says. “But I’m trained with them.”

When not on the job, Mr. Jefferson spends time with his wife, a nurse at Loyola Medical Center, and his daughter, a senior premed student at Atlanta Clark University who plans to study gynecology in New York next year.

“We come downtown on off days and get the DIVY bikes or do the Wendella boat tour. That’s very interesting. I recommend it to everyone.”

To nominate your doorperson, please email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

—Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Nita Thornton, Coast apartments

Nita Thornton, doorperson at Coast Apartments, 345 E. Wacker Dr., learned how to handle the front desk responsibilities of a busy New Eastside high rise from a former coworker and friend who she believes to be without equal in the business.


Nita Thornton

“The good man from the Shoreham, Fred Crocker, is the best Doorman I’ve ever known,” she says. “He looked out for me. Got me all set up. Got me through training.”

It was Fred’s mother, a trusted friend for years, who encouraged Ms. Thornton to investigate an opportunity in the building where her son worked in October 2012.

At the time, Ms. Thornton was a Moraine Valley Community College nursing student, but her natural instinct for helping others was growing restless. So she decided to give it a try.

There is no doubt in her mind that it was the right move to make.

“You get to put your arms out and extend yourself,” she explains. “It’s beneficial all the way around.”

Roughly a year later, she accepted a postion at Coast when it opened.

Since then, her personalized brand of courtesy and service has been a hit with the tenants. “Nita is always on it,” said the resident who nominated her for this honor. “Everyone loves her. She always has a smile on her face and the right answer to give to anybody. We know we can count on her.”

The position also allows her to frequently communicate in Spanish, which she speaks fluently thanks to her father, who is of African American and Puerto Rican descent.

Although she wishes that she had learned to speak more than “just” two languages — “There are a lot of people and I would love to speak with them all,” says Ms. Thornton — she has taken full advantage of her bilingual and bicultural upbringing.

“The beat of Reggeatone is amazing,” she says. “And I like to dance.”

When she’s not enjoying the calypso rhythms of her heritage, Ms. Thornton likes to “just hang back” and spend time with family. Whether it’s with her own cousins, who rely on her wisdom as the oldest, or the children of friends, she cherishes being a helpful and mature friend.

“For some reason, kids take a liking to me,” she says. “I like to claim them when I can.”

To nominate your doorperson, please email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Marshey McCaster, Coast

Marshey McCaster knew that she wanted to join the service team at Coast on E. Wacker Dr. as soon as she learned about an opportunity in the building from a member of the doorstaff last December.

“I was at Jefferson Tower on Lake Street,” she explains. “It was a great job, but I was ready to make a switch.”

Since both properties were and still are managed by the Magellan Corporation, the change involved little if any stress.

IMG_9359web“I’ve been with Magellan for six years,” she says. “They’re awesome people to work for because they really care about their residents and their employees.”

Ms. McCaster also knew that her personality was a great fit for the job. Recognized by friends as “the one who is always smiling,” she enthusiastically describes her role by saying, “you meet and greet people all day!”

The location was another big plus. “Everything in this neighborhood is changing,” she says. “They’re building the Wanda Vista next door and there will be a lot of people and businesses moving in over the next few months.”

With “a great reference” from one of the staff, she got the offer, settled in, and soon discovered that the situation exceeded her highest expectations.

“I met the superstar Terrance Howard!” she exclaims. “He was compassionate and polite.”
Noting that “a lot of celebrities” pass through the lobby, Ms. McCaster says that her new job has become a perfect compliment to and resource for her love and pursuit of fashion design.

“It’s always been my passion,” she explains. Besides earning a BFA from the International Academy of Design & Technology, she is also an avid student of celebrity couture. “My best things are bowties for men and women,” she says. “I created a bowtie inspired by one that I saw Usher wearing in a GQ photo.”

To nominate your doorperson, please email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

By Daniel Patton | Staff Writer

Doorperson of the month: James Henri, 340 On The Park

James Henri, doorman at 340 On The Park, has always enjoyed working with people. Before assuming front desk responsibilities at the city’s second tallest residential building, he spent decades in hospital administration, hotel security, and public education.

But the immeasurably professional Mr. Henri, who also earned a degree in Education from Cornell College in Iowa, credits the tenants of the building for his success. “We have doctors, lawyers, CEOs,” he says. “They are down-to-earth and they’ve embraced me and included me in their families.”

He came to 340 by way of a recommendation from a tenant in a condominium where he worked before pursuing the position.

“She was moving out and I said, ‘I hate to see you leave,” he recalls. “And she said, ‘you ought to come with us.’”


James Henri (photo: Daniel Patton).

Mr. Henri joined the team that helped inaugurate the high-rise when it opened in 2007 and has fostered a number of admirers ever since.

“There isn’t a person whose name he doesn’t know,” says Betsy Gilfillan, a tenant in the building. “He set the standard for great service and he is a joy to see every time we walk through the lobby.”

This respect for other people has been a part of Mr. Henri’s character since he was a child growing up in the Chatham neighborhood on Chicago’s south side.

“I am from a mixed-race family,” he explains. “My father was African-American and my mother was white. It could be intense.”

Mr. Henri was taught about patience, respect and ambition by his parents, who remained together throughout their entire lives.

“We couldn’t use the word ‘hate’ in our household,” he explains. “Because it’s a learned behavior.”

The rule was applied to every aspect of the family’s life. “I don’t like asparagus and I don’t like Brussels sprouts,” he says. “But I can’t say I hate them.”

To nominate your doorperson, please email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

Gail Rogers, Park Millennium

Doorperson Gail Rogers came to the Park Millennium by way of a contract job for a security company ten years ago. Almost immediately, she “fell in love” with her work. When the building’s management expressed a similar albeit professional interest in her a short time later, the native Chicagoan acted on it.

“I was here for a couple of months and Park Millennium hired me,” she says.

Since then, she has seen the location change and improve at a rapid pace.

“The Aqua wasn’t there, the CVS wasn’t there, and the area with the Mariano’s and all that wasn’t there,” she explains. “Now it’s a great location and you’re right at everything.”

According to Rogers, the greatest challenge of the job is a round-the-clock demand for customer service. “With all the people in and out,” she says. “It’s like a revolving door. It’s a very busy building and nothing stands still.”

IMG_2517cShe handles the responsibilities with a virtue that she feels should come naturally to any good doorperson – patience. “You have to be a people person,” she says. “That’s the bottom line. You have to like talking and being around people, and then it works.”

The perpetually upbeat Rogers shows an instinctive knack for her profession and does not hesitate to express her appreciation for the residents who help make her job easier.

“They are wonderful, very good people,” she says. “I love them very much.”

When Rogers is not tending to the needs of a downtown high-rise condominium, she likes to relax in her south suburban home and pursue her professional education.

“I’m taking a real estate class now,” she explains. “Once I’m done with this I think I’m going to do that on the side.”

To nominate your doorperson, please email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Betty Smith, The Regatta

Anytime you walk into the beautiful Regatta building — morning, noon, or night — you are sure to be greeted by a friendly face at the front desk. One of those is our February Doorperson of the Month, Mrs. Betty Smith.

“What I enjoy the most about the job is the interaction with the people. I enjoy being a friendly face and voice for folks when they come back home after a long day,” says Smith.

Smith has handled the door at the Regatta for nearly seven years.  She began as a security person in the area before enthusiastically accepting an offer to join the full-time staff. Since then, she has seen many positive changes in the neighborhood.

IMG_5783a“The New Eastside has really improved,” she says.  “The beautification and expanded facilities at the park and all the new entertainment options are wonderful to see!”

Smith has also witnessed “more than a few” interesting incidents, including one particular afternoon when a vicious dogfight erupted in the lobby.

It occurred while a female resident and her two pit bulls were waiting for an elevator. They were greeted by a German shepherd and its owner when the elevator’s doors opened. The dogs immediately went into attack mode.  The pit bulls nearly broke free of their leashes but were restrained by a maintenance worker.

There is never a dull moment in the life of a doorperson.

Of what Betty is proudest, the answer is easy — her family. Betty has a daughter; a son; and two grandsons, one of whom just graduated from North Park College.

To nominate your doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

— Jon Cohn | Community Contributor

Razvan Badulescu, Aqua Condominiums

Daniel Patton | Staff Writer

Razvan Badulescu arrived in the United States from Bucharest, Romania, by way of the 2001 “immigration lottery” sponsored by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

He applied for the privilage after demonstrating admissibility to the country and was “working several jobs” and “starting university” when the department awarded him a green card.

He became a doorperson at the Aqua Condominium building only six months after it opened in 2009.

Among the residents who are happy with his decision to pursue the opportunity is Margo Huston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist.

“Razvan is wonderful,” she says.

“Attentive, friendly, respectful and, most importantly, fun.”

What do you like best about your job?

I like working with people. I like to interact with people. I probably deal with a thousand people a day.

IMG_5434bHow do you describe a typical day?

Besides greeting people, there are different things to do, like helping maintain some kind of security.

I sometimes also help carry things upstairs, especially if someone has a lot of luggage and stuff. We always help them unload the car and carry things to the door and the elevator, but if they need help all the way up to their home, we do it.

What is most challenging part of your job?

The Aqua is a condominium, apartment and hotel. People come from the hotel asking to be checked in. I have to show them where to go. Same with the parking. That’s why we have two doorpersons all the time. We have a lot more to do than other buildings. It’s a lot more crowded and a lot more complex.

IMG_5456bHow do you describe the residents?

The people are very nice. They always talk to you. They bring you stuff like food and sweets. It doesn’t matter the value or anything like that. What matters is the gesture, the fact that they think about you, that’s important. You are the person who greets them every day when they come home. You understand what’s in happening in their life and they trust you.

To nominate your doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

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