Leroy Kelsey – A Photo Essay

Leroy Kelsey has been a union-member since 1995. He recently welcomed union staff into his home for a day to share his life as a nursing home worker.

This is Leroy’s story:

55-year-old Leroy Kelsey starts his day at 4:00 a.m. every morning.

On this morning he is making the short walk from home to work for his 5 a.m. – 2 p.m. shift at a nursing home facility in Watts, CA where he has been a cook for over 20 years.

Leroy values his job because the nursing home residents rely on him to stay happy and healthy.

As Leroy has gained more knowledge about workplace rights, he feels empowered when standing up for a life of dignity and respect for nursing home residents and his colleagues.

After work, Leroy comes home to his kids.

One of the things he cherishes the most about family time is having meaningful conversations with his children about social issues, safety, working hard, and how to be responsible people.

“I tell them that if they think I’m tough on them, then they have to be ready for the real world.”

His wife goes to work in the morning and works for most of the day so Leroy picks up the kids from school.

Leroy tries to always stay close to his kids. He wishes they could afford a home in a safer neighborhood, but unfortunately due to budget constraints they can only afford a home where crime is the norm.

He also takes time to help them with homework and learn about how their day went.

“We spend a lot of time together and talk. I’m basically on them about schooling and trying to make sure they are doing what they’re supposed to do. I want them to have better opportunities.”

After feeding his kids dinner, on his “down time” Leroy pays bills and watches the news. Although he and his wife both work full-time, he has recently decided to look for a second job because lately it has been difficult to make ends meet.

“Things that are hardest to purchase are the things you need the most [like food]. I have to get another job because with the current cost of living, you have to make more to make ends meet.”

Leroy finishes his day by taking one of his eldest sons to work at around 11 p.m. even though he has to be up again by 4 a.m.

“I learned to live off of 4 hours of sleep while in the military. Really, that’s all you need, and all I have time for.”

As he passes by a local church he is reminded of how much his faith fuels him daily.

Leroy once had a very difficult time finding a job. He is a church-goer and to this day continues to pray thanks for finding employment at the nursing facility he currently works at.

Even though some days may be tough, Leroy’s family always puts a smile on his face and keeps him motivated. Here he is surrounded by five of his children.

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