For a Christmas aficionado, one of the joys of the holiday season is decking the halls – and perhaps the lawn, the roof and any other available space – with lights, garlands and other festive trimmings. Ruth Ann Grant, a housekeeper at Robert Allerton Park and Conference Center, Monticello, is one of those holiday enthusiasts. “I love Christmas because I like to decorate,” Grant said. That’s a good thing – because she and three of her co-workers were responsible for festooning the Allerton mansion this holiday season, which they did in a three-day decorating blitz. In January, Grant will celebrate her 13th year working in the housekeeping department at Allerton.
What does your job entail?
Every day that I’m here, the other housekeepers and I are responsible for cleaning the meeting rooms, the hallways, the public restrooms and the guest rooms if we have overnight guests. We also clean in the outer buildings where we provide guest services.
We have 39 guest rooms: 16 in the mansion, six in the gatehouse, 10 in Evergreen Lodge, and seven in the House in the Woods.
Do you have guests continuously?
April through October is our really, really busy time. We’re a little slow around the holidays and in January or February because of the weather. We’re doing Sunday brunches, day meetings, lunches and holiday celebrations this time of year on the weekends. There’s something going on most of the time.
What do you enjoy about your job that has kept you at Allerton so long?
The surroundings and the people that I work with in my department. We get along really well. I’ve lived in Monticello for most of my life, and Allerton has just always been a part of my life. I had an aunt that was a cook here for years, an uncle that worked on the grounds, and a sister-in-law who worked here for a long time. It’s sort of been a family tradition for someone to be working here at some point.
Do you have a favorite time of year?
The springtime, like in late April and early May, is really beautiful with all of the flowers, when the peonies and the irises are blooming. It’s also beautiful out here in the winter when we get a little snow and with all the evergreens.
Were you involved in decorating the mansion for Christmas?
The other three housekeepers – Jane Burton, Brenda Nichols and Julie Beals – and I did the lion’s share of it, although the men did the heavy lifting. We decorated three trees and put up lots of bows and wreaths. We got poinsettias from a local nursery and put those around in different places. We just wanted to do something to make it look really Christmasy and nice. It really was a team effort and took us about three days to get it all decorated.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Sometimes it’s challenging just to get everything done on time and done well simultaneously. If you’re really, really busy and have a lot of people in here, and are short-staffed because of illness, it can be a little difficult. But we all work together here and manage to get it all done the way it’s supposed to be.
What hobbies or other interests do you have?
I’m a golfer. I got bitten by the bug about 30 years ago. It’s the only sport I’ve really loved to do, and it’s the one thing that you can continue to do later in life. My husband and I belong to a private club in Monticello and we get onto the course as early as we can in the spring, sometimes in March, and play through November, weather permitting. If we go someplace in the winter, we try to go somewhere that golf is available, like the southwest, Florida, Alabama or Mississippi. I love to travel. My husband is semi-retired and maybe when I retire we’ll get to do more of it.
I also like to sew, quilt and do crafts. I also like to do activities with my four grandchildren.