Battling pancreatic cancer, Donna Klimas stays on the job

Manhattan Office Cleaner loves her job, hot yoga, and being driven to work every day by her husband.

| 18 Oct 2023 | 01:03

Born in Poland, Danuto “Donna” Klimas moved to the U.S. in 1984 with her five-year-old son Daniel, three years after her husband had relocated here to put down some preliminary roots. She currently resides in Queens, and relies on husband Richard, her “private driver” to transport her to work at 40 Worth Street, where she is the head staff cleaner for the entire 16-story building.

Her workday begins at 4 p.m which she loves because the schedule frees up the early part of the day to attend to her own affairs. She was able to raise Daniel, and now that block of time is spent taking care of her own day-to-day personal affairs. This includes appointments with her medical team as she battles pancreatic cancer while holding down a full-time job, and overseeing a staff of approximately 14 others who help maintain the high health and hygiene standards of the building.

Her first task upon arrival involves checking in staff and stocking her arsenal of cleaning supplies. After that, it’s purely physical labor, including disinfecting, emptying refuse receptacles, vacuuming. It’s a lot to take on at any age or state of health, but all the more impressive in her condition. She loves her disinfectant; given her health concerns, she is hyper-aware of the importance of maintaining a clean and sanitary environment.

Around 9 p.m. she allows herself a brief “lunch break.” Her shift ends at 11 p.m., which would seem late to a lot of people, but Klimas loves her schedule. “It’s a beautiful shift,” she said.

She loves her job, she even loves some of the tenants in the building, especially the GAP and the Legal Aid Society. This is because she sees day in, day out how hard they work for their clients, and Klimas knows a lot about hard work. She admires it, respects it, and embodies it.

When she is not working, she partakes in a different kind of work: hot yoga. She has found a community in the practitioners there, as well as among her coworkers, whom she “would do anything for.”

Klimas brings people together, and her positive attitude and work ethic fosters the kind of work environment many people only dream of. She says she respects “her employer for this great job, and the union for fighting for these kinds of jobs.”