When a Californian nursing home for the elderly shut down at the end part of last year due to a lack of finances, leaving all its residents behind, unpaid staff – understandably – left to seek alternative employment. But two employees, despite their lack of pay checks – carried on working. Why? Well, as janitor and cook, without them who was going to cook the old timers’ food and maintain the building, right?
Maurice Rowland, and Miguel Alvarez have since become cult heroes for their uniquely selfless ways, having been featured on radio and local TV news. And now? There’s even a feature-length movie being made about the pair!
“There was about 16 residents left behind, and we had a conversation in the kitchen, ‘What are we going to do?” Rowland says.
“If we left, they wouldn’t have nobody,” 34-year-old Alvarez said. “We were just the cook and the janitor.”
“Next thing you know, they’re in the kitchen trying to cook their own food and they burn the place down. I just couldn’t see myself going home,” says Rowland. And so they didn’t. They stayed. And became heroes.
The two-man team spent several days working for free after Valley Springs shut its doors, providing round-the-clock care and services for the home’s elderly patients, many of whom were not in a position to fully understand what was happening. Alvarez and Rowland provided medication, bathed, fed, and generally looked after the 16-odd residents not collected by family or guardians after the shutdown. Despite only having ever been trained to cook and tend the grounds.
They stayed until the local Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department came to relieve them and organize the takeover and continuation of services at the care home. But that wasn’t enough for the two men. Shocked and appalled by what had happened, they fought to ensure that a similar fate couldn’t befall vulnerable other elderly folk in these homes in the future.
Their dogged determination and hard work led to new legislation being introduced in California known as ‘The Residential Care for the Elderly Reform Act of 2014’, which protects nursing home residents from the possibility of being abandoned in the case of an unexpected and forced shutdown.
Now, filmmaker Miles Maker – inspired by the pair’s attitude and work -wants to turn their story into a movie, called If We Left.
“Help make a film based on a true story about a cook and a janitor who did the right thing and became national heroes,” Maker said about the project as he appealed for funds to get the movie off the ground.
If you’ve been touched by this story you can help out the project by donating to the Indigogo campaign.