Gwen Brown, PCA & Frontline Hero

Gwen Brown is a PCA in Boston and member of 1199 SEIU. Gwen recently lost her partner of 19 years to COVID-19 and has been working throughout the crisis caring for her clients. Gwen shares her story with us as part of the Greater Boston Labor Council's #FrontlineHeroes series. Our series profiles the work of union members and everyday heroes who are working on the frontlines during the global pandemic. Stories are updated weekly. To read other Frontline Hero stories, click here: https://gblc.us/tag/frontline-heroes.

Gwen Brown has a warm personality and loving nature that draws you in. Everyone calls her for help. When we spoke, Gwen had just found and delivered gloves to a fellow PCA - Personal Care  Attendant - in her neighborhood: "I don't want her to feel discouraged about being a PCA. I want her to have the PPE she needs so she doesn't have to be afraid." Gwen has been a PCA for over 20 years, doing the hard physical and emotional labor of helping home-bound clients live their lives with dignity. She's been a member of 1199SEIU since 2007. "I just enjoy what I do - I love people and I do it from the kindness of my heart."

Gwen speaks with clarity and steadiness about her clients and work, even though her life has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking care of sick and elderly clients in their homes presents great risk and Gwen has worked as an activist in her union, advocating for PPE and helping to figure out what her fellow PCAs need and how they can get it. "PCA work is so demanding. But if I don't help, no one will - that's why the union is so important. In a field where we’re alone a lot, the union brings us together."

Amidst everything, the unthinkable happened: Gwen’s partner of 19 years, Preston, contracted COVID-19 and passed away on April 29th. Gwen describes Preston as full of joy for life and the couple loved being by each other’s side. Except for a few facetime sessions, Gwen wasn't able to see Preston again from the time he entered the hospital on March 31st, a fact that brings Gwen great pain.

As she faces a new reality without Preston, Gwen presses on, helping her clients, raising her teen-aged daughter, and supporting her fellow PCAs through this crisis--a caretaker through and through.