Mike Hollingsworth: A joy that refills your tank - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 1:03 pm
Mike Hollingsworth: A joy that refills your tank

There’s something about a fist bump from Mike Hollingsworth.

Whether they are downtown workers escaping to the gym or co-workers who keep the Downtown YMCA humming, being on the receiving end of that electric tap can be just the morale boost needed to get through the day.

Hollingsworth, a 59-year-old veteran who still has a second-grader at home, is a YMCA janitor. He doesn’t enjoy every part of the job that has him sweeping dead bugs and retrieving men’s sweaty towels.

But Hollingsworth decided early on to make more of the handyman routine than an hourly wage of $9.18 — and for the past three years he’s approached each encounter with a personal greeting, an offer of assistance or a fun remark that makes his time fly.

In doing so, he makes members like Audrey Glenn laugh out loud between arm lifts.

“He pumps everybody up,” said retiree Stan Baumann.

Hollingsworth represents that often underpaid, overlooked workhorse whose simple gestures add a bright spot to the workplace. In addition to 80 co-workers, his positive attitude can reach as many as 6,200 members who drop kids at child care, squeeze in a noon workout or compete in a youth basketball game.

Members say Hollingsworth’s familiar shouts announcing fresh-brewed coffee or spirited words to a tired treadmill walker help build a sense of community among members ranging from county judges to low-income families.

Bob Guinan drives daily from his west Omaha law office because he likes this Y’s diverse vibe, and Hollingsworth is part of that.

Said college student Jerry Wade: “When I see him doing what he does — with joy — it gives me motivation to do my workout.”

Glenn, who’s lost 40 pounds since arriving in 2012 from the Bronx, said Hollingsworth is always good for a dose of humor or encouragement. “And he doesn’t get paid for that.”

Patrons who dig deeper find a father of three who was raised near 18th and Lake Streets, takes the No. 18 bus to and from work and picks up tin cans for extra cash.

“Michael’s had his struggles in life,” said boss Chuck Crinklaw. “He’s easy to talk with, and when you do, you forget about the little stupid things in your own life you’re worried about.”

After getting a GED, Hollings-worth joined the Army and repaired missile radar. A trained machine operator, he spent 20 years in Los Angeles, trying his luck as a singer and piano player before coming home in his early 40s.

By then, his stomping grounds had changed. Kids asked him what gang set he’s with, which makes him both laugh and long for the day when North 24th Street offered more for kids to do.

At the Y, he asks young ballplayers about their grades.

“I tell them how important it is to get an education ... beef up your vocabulary, people think more of you.”

Hollingsworth didn’t set out to be popular; he said he simply feels better by making someone else feel good.

“Walking past a person all day and not saying anything, well, that just doesn’t seem right to me.”

Contact the writer: Cindy Gonzalez

cindy.gonzalez@owh.com    |   402-444-1224    |  

Cindy covers residential and commercial real estate, economic development, tourism and hotels, and immigration issues related to businesses.

USDA official tours Waverly ranch as disaster assistance program begins
Jon Barker replaces Hayneedle co-founder Doug Nielsen as chief executive
Technology – including Google Glass – gets a try-on at Omaha Infotec conference
GROW Nebraska plans entrepreneurship conference
Google applies for patent for camera in contact lens
Caterer's move to downtown Omaha warehouse means new jobs, event center
Crew working to disassemble International Nutrition plant
Six nonprofits benefit from Walmart grants
New Hastings business helps your personal history live on
Alibaba stake fuels Yahoo stock’s rise
Business digest: Big banks might need to hold more capital, Yellen says
18-year-old's fashion-design company wins Maverick Business Plan Competition
In brief: Zebra to spend more than $3 billion on Motorola business
Union Pacific's ‘Big Boy’ locomotive takes the road back to life
Heinz offers buyouts to all Pittsburgh workers
SBA loan activity up in Nebraska
Banker leads Omaha branch's 'Happy' dance video
5 things to know about tax day
Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger 'fiesta ducks' on sale at Berkshire meeting
Nebraska Crossing Outlets stores, layout
West Corp. deal to expand its alert business
Tech talent, tax incentives help lure MindMixer to Kansas City
The Record: Bankruptcies, April 15
More have had personal information stolen
In brief: Retail sales gain is best since 2012
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Inside Business
To submit an announcement for "Inside Business", click here. For questions call (402) 444-1371 or e-mail announcements@owh.com.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »