By Kristi Lynn
FRUITPORT–The act of giving back can be done in so many ways. It could be financial giving or just a kind act that is its own reward.
For John Winskas, it was personal. It was something he wanted to do … “play forward.”
Winskas, a United States Army veteran, served his country for 8 years. He worked with air defense artillery, and halfway through his service, he was working on Hawk Patriot Missiles. After leaving the Army, Winskas, a 1987 Fruitport High School graduate, returned home to work at his alma mater.
For 26 years, Winkas has worked in maintenance for the district, including 17 as the Athletic Fields Director of Operations.
“I oversee everything above ground and below,” Winskas said. “I oversee construction, fields, building maintenance, fences and safety.”
Winskas was instrumental in the construction of the new school building at Fruitport. The home of the Trojans has one-of-a-kind safety measures built into the facility. They were the first in the country to have a building specially constructed to thwart any possible invasion of an active shooter that may invade the campus.
Winskas would attend a meeting then head home and ponder what was discussed and if there was any way it could be done better. Winskas’ ideas were not only welcomed, but used in further planning.
“I really like leadership,” he said. “This has been a fantastic job. I get to give back.”
Before Winskas took the job of Facilities Director, he was mentored by Joe DeMarco.
“He trained and gave me responsibilities where I could learn,” said Winskas, who after years of mentoring, was ready and excited for the challenge of taking over the lead role.
The job has been “very rewarding,” he said. “I get to have 5-7 kids a summer to hire and keep during the year. Watching what the kids have done, watching them bloom from then to now through hard work, is something amazing and so rewarding.”
Two cases in particular stand out to Winskas in his career. Doing what he was trained to do by his mentor is now being passed on to students. One former student is now an F16 fighter pilot, a commander. Another student is a PA (physicians assistant) under a heart surgeon. Many others also went on to bigger and better things, but for Winskas, those two make him particularly proud.
“You’re the only one in your life that can change you,” Winskas said.
Military life, its training and discipline have served him well over the years. Anything with marching and planning builds stamina and discipline.
Winskas has brought that same work ethic into his home and family. His daughter is in the pharmacy program at Ferris State and his son graduates this spring from Fruitport.
Every decision he makes in his job is a challenge in a different way, according to Winskas. He has to decide how it’s going to affect the kids and their safety. Something as simple as fixing a fence takes some thought.
“I’m always thinking to myself, ‘is it safe?'” he said.
Mentoring young adults has been a joy for Winskas, almost a “calling” you might say. He can’t see himself retiring anytime soon. He figures he’s got at least another 10 years in him.
He has a solid relationship with the MAISD. In fact, he’s getting three students from Muskegon Heights to shadow him during the summer.
“None of this is for John,” he said. “It’s for the 3,000 kids here. I don’t want the glory for this job. I don’t need the recognition.”