Togetherness, teamwork are hallmarks of Albion couple's many years as GCASA employees
Whether they were spending time at their Albion home or on the job at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Albion residents Nick and Cyndi Mardino are grateful for the opportunity to share their experiences together.
The Mardinos retired at the end of May after long careers at GCASA, primarily at the Albion clinic on East Avenue but also at the Batavia campus on East Main Street.
Cyndi began employment there in 2000, the last 18 or so years as the agency’s customer service supervisor, while Nick started in 2005, first as a part-time maintenance man while he worked his full-time job as a corrections officer at Orleans Correctional Facility and then, over the past year, in a full-time role.
Driven by a mindset focused upon togetherness and teamwork, and guided by a strong faith in God, the Mardinos made a tremendous impact upon GCASA staff and clients, alike.
“Both Cyndi and Nick were excellent employees. They always went above and beyond their job duties, and they were loyal and dedicated to GCASA,” said Kathy S. Hodgins, chief clinical officer, a close friend of Cyndi.
Hodgins said Cyndi, as support staff supervisor, “treated her staff with respect and valued each one of them,” while Nick made sure “the building and grounds in Albion were always immaculate.”
Interviewed by telephone on Wednesday, the Mardinos said that working at GCASA has been “a blessing” and while they miss the work, they miss their colleagues and clients even more.
“I have enjoyed my experience with GCASA and getting to know so many people who over the years had become like family to me,” Cyndi said. “I have enjoyed working with the front staff and Beth Collee and Rachel Patten were the most amazing people to work with and they were family to me. The front office team was a joy and I was very sad to leave.”
Nick, an Air Force veteran, said his time at GCASA was “a pleasure,” and he especially enjoyed taking on all kinds of projects with coworkers Jeff Helenbrook and Ron Hall.
And they said it was extra special to be able to interact with each other at different times.
“We always worked well together, so if somebody needed something, I would say, ‘Nick, can you do this?’ Or if one of the counselors needed something done, I would ask him and he’d always take care of it.”
Cyndi said people would ask her how she could work with her husband and then go home. “I would say, ‘You know what? He’s my best friend.’ ”
Nick agreed, simply stating, “We do everything together.”
Cyndi believes that working at GCASA was meant to be.
“Kathy (Hodgins) always said 'you’re here for a reason,' ” she said. “Because I grew up in an alcoholic family and my first husband was an alcoholic, so there’s always a reason.”
The Mardinos were always quick with a smile and a word of encouragement, traits of their outgoing personalities.
“I always enjoyed talking to the patients because you wanted to have a good rapport with them. I told the staff -- my team – ‘Listen guys, they’re walking in here and a lot of times that first step is the hardest to do.’ When they walk in that door, they have to be treated as a human being,” Cyndi said. “They have problems and we can’t help them with that, but we can be that smiling face – that person who could be there if they have questions or if they just need someone to smile at them.”
The Mardinos were looking to retire a couple years down the road, but changed their plans, opting to close the full-time employment chapter of their lives at the young Social Security ages of 62 (Nick) and 63.
“God intervened and we said it was time,” Cyndi said.
They had anticipated to take a cross-country trip this summer, but that’s on hold due to the coronavirus.
Still, they said they have plenty of projects around the house, are welcoming family members (they have three grown children and six grandkids), love the time with Bella, their chocolate Labrador retriever, and soon hope to be able to visit Nick’s mother who is in a nursing home.
The Mardinos met as a result of a blind date 33 years ago and were married in 1993. Cyndi lived in California, Oklahoma, Texas and Maine before returning to her hometown of Albion to stay. Nick is a native of North Collins in Erie County.
GCASA Executive Director John Bennett tried to keep the Mardinos on a bit longer, but that wasn’t in the cards. He did, however, manage to convince them to stay on as “per diem” employees.
So, in a pinch, GCASA employees may be able to share some moments with Cyndi and Nick once again – giving the Mardinos another chance to express their well-wishes, thanks and appreciation for two decades of service.
DISCLOSURE: Story written by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.