An Army of One

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Momenia Ali had a secret. But now she’s decided to introduce the world to Vernon Daniels.

“He does a great job for the neighborhood, and I had to let someone know,” she said.

Ali, a nurse who lives in the West Harlem area where Daniels works, couldn’t help but notice the results.

“He’s a great worker. He goes out of his way to help the disabled. Everyone admires him,” she said.

In his spare time, Vernon Daniels volunteers at the historic Metropolitan Baptist Church doing maintenance and repairs. Photo by Karl Crutchfield

In his spare time, Vernon Daniels volunteers at the historic Metropolitan Baptist Church doing maintenance and repairs. Photo by Karl Crutchfield

For Daniels, the six buildings that run from West 132nd to 135th streets along Amsterdam Avenue are his responsibility, and he works to keep the neighborhood “neat and orderly.” The complex, owned by the West Harlem Group, has four building entrances, seven yards, 26 garbage cans and nearly 800 stairs that require his constant attention. But to Daniels, it isn’t work.

“I’ve got two hands and two legs. Let me do the best I can,” he said. “But it’s the people, the gratitude I get, that makes the difference.”

Although Daniels is an army of one caring for the multiple buildings that sit on both sides of Amsterdam Avenue, he receives praise from tenants. In the two years he’s been on the job, Daniels has never taken a vacation. When he once called out sick, the two men hired to cover for the day bailed on the job before completing the eight-hour shift.

“I feel like it’s a personal responsibility, no one can do it like me,” he said.

He’s probably right. Even with his extensive responsibilities, Daniels still finds time to care for the elderly and disabled as carefully as he does the buildings they live in.

“I take time to talk to the older people, some days I know I’m the only one they’ll have a chance to talk to,” he said.

Daniels often helps with groceries and packages, providing service and attention usually found in doorman buildings. He’s even been known to do an errand or two. He tells the tenants, “If you can’t get out, just call me and I’ll pick it up on my break.” His reasons for helping are simple: “That’s why God put us on this earth, to help one another.”

Remarkably Daniels, a father of two, still makes time to help his Harlem community in other ways. When his workday ends at 4 p.m., he volunteers at the historic Metropolitan Baptist Church doing maintenance and repairs to the nearly 100-year-old structure, even handing out meals to the homeless when the kitchen is short staffed.

“I love Harlem and try to set a good example for my kids by working hard and showing care to everyone,” Daniels said. “The choices are there. I’ve been blessed, and I want to pass those blessings on.”

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