There isn’t much Aaron Farrar hasn’t taught himself about fixing stuff.
“I wasn’t really much of a handyman until I took an opportunity at another facility several years ago as the director of maintenance,” said Aaron, who became Cedar Sinai Park’s lead maintenance technician almost two years ago. “The former director quit and walked off the job, so there wasn’t anyone I could turn to for advice. I had no training whatsoever. They just threw me in and told me to figure it out.
“It was just me and YouTube back then, and now over the years, I’ve done all kinds of different repairs. I truly have learned so much these last several years. I’ve found that sometimes, the best way to learn something is just to get in there and do it.”
Aaron grew up in southern California and moved to the Northwest 17 years ago for a change of scenery. First landing in Seattle where he worked in commercial and industrial heating and air conditioning, then on to Portland where he obtained jobs at memory care and assisted living facilities.
He joined Cedar Sinai Park in April of 2020, during the height of the pandemic. “The Jewish community seems to really look out for their own people, but happily welcomes people of many other backgrounds and ethnicities as well, and that was kind of cool to me.” said Aaron.
Aaron drives to Cedar Sinai Park from Vancouver every day, what can be a long drive given traffic, depending upon his hours.
“It’s not a thing of convenience,” said Aaron, with a laugh. “I enjoy coming to work. I enjoy what I do, helping residents and staff.”
“I’ve been treated well since I’ve been here. Vacation hours accrue quickly, and we even get free employee meals, which is always a plus. It seems real family oriented here. There are a lot of people who have worked here for over 20 years, which in my opinion speaks volumes. Things have gone well.”
The day we spoke with Aaron, he was troubleshooting an electrical issue on a couple of baseboard heaters in the 600 Hall of Robison, but most days, he is all over campus. Some days, his tasks are as simple as moving a bed or repairing a shelf. But he’s also dealt with extinguishing a dryer fire, repairing broken water lines, and is the backup for Building Services Director Tammy Heard.
“Tammy offers the team a lot of support, and so we do our best to support her, as well.”
When asked about the work he does on a typical day, Aaron explained: “You try to stick to a plan, which some days works fine, but then on other days, you’re not even close,” he said, laughing. “Sometimes, a repair that you thought would be a simple job ends up taking much longer. I help out here and there with the normal day-to-day tasks, but I also deal with the slightly more technical and complex issues that arise, which often require not only technical know-how, but also time spent researching effective solutions, and a lot of patience.
“For example,” said Aaron, “since starting at Robison nearly three years ago, I’ve taught myself, and others on the team, how to troubleshoot and repair hospital beds, mobile and ceiling-based patient lifts, and even the control operators that open and close many of the automatic doors in the facility. Prior to my arrival, most of that work was handled strictly by outside vendors.”
Last year, Aaron played a key role in obtaining approvals for both Robison and Rose Schnitzer Manor to receive $200,000 in state funds from the Oregon Department of Human Services, as part of their Long-Term Care Capital Improvement & Emergency Preparedness Program. As a result, both buildings received much-needed major repairs on their HVAC systems, and Robison was equipped with more than a dozen medical grade, high-efficiency HEPA air purifiers.
Two weeks ago, during Portland’s big snowstorm, Aaron drove the Cedar Sinai Park van to collect dozens of employees from their homes and got them to work safely, and then home again after their shift.
“Cedar Sinai Park has equipped its two vans with really nice, studded tires, so we were practically the only ones on the road who were still moving,” said Aaron. “There were busses in the middle of the road, completely abandoned, while other vehicles were sliding uncontrollably into each other like bumper cars. It was intense and quite stressful, for me at least.
“Jack [Hellyer, the other maintenance technician who drove for the winter weather shuttle], on the other hand, didn’t seem to be bothered one bit by all the driving he did in such icy conditions,” said Aaron. “He apparently enjoyed it. But overall, the driving went well. We just made sure to drive really, really slow, making sure to get everyone to and from work safely.”
Aaron loves to read in his off time, mostly nonfiction such as politics, global affairs, and history. He’s computer savvy—he can build a website from scratch and knows how to code— and is currently learning how to use one of the many distributions of the Linux operating system. Last summer, he piloted his first plane, a small Cessna. He is a mentor to other employees on the maintenance team.
“I do my best to mitigate issues, put out what fires I can, and do whatever it is Tammy needs done at the moment.
“I really like it here.”