Why a Janitor, Cook Kept Working Without Pay
StoryCorps talks to the two men who cared for abandoned seniors last year
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 26, 2014 1:23 PM CST
Miguel Alvarez, hired as a janitor, had no experience caring for the elderly.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Things to be thankful for: people like Maurice Rowland and Miguel Alvarez. StoryCorps revisits the story of the cook and the janitor, who worked at a California assisted living home that was abandoned by its management after the state pulled its operating license in October of last year, leaving roughly 16 elderly residents with nowhere to go. Their paychecks ceased, the staff left—except for Rowland and Alvarez. "We had people that had dementia," Rowland tells StoryCorps. "I just didn't see myself going home—next thing you know they're in the kitchen trying to cook their own food and burning the place down." Over nearly three essentially 24-hour days, the two found themselves handing out medication, diapering, bathing, feeding, and otherwise caring for those left at Valley Springs Manor, all without pay, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"If I would've left, I think that would have been on my conscience for a very long time," says Rowland. "I would only go home for one hour, take a shower, get dressed, then be there for 24-hour days," says Alvarez, whose wife was initially angry that he backed out of a planned family visit to Six Flags with their kids in order to care for the residents. The fire department and sheriff ultimately stepped in, and new legislation passed last year now protects elderly residents from being abandoned after a shutdown. The Atlantic reports that over the last year, the two men have been given awards and have been paid for that time they worked for free, via donations. The San Jose Mercury News notes that the owner of the former Valley Springs Manor in June dropped her effort to retain her license to operate a residential care facility in California.