BY TRONE DOWD
Brooklyn native Leroy Gibson, 61, had a rough upbringing, culminating in a traumatic incident that would change his life forever.
Gibson had faced the ultimate crossroads in his life: choosing the easy way out of his situation or facing his problems head-on and doing something positive about it. He chose the latter and became a business service coordinator with Visiting Nurse Service of New York, turning his life around from substance abuse to a happily married man and father with a passion for helping his fellow man.
Growing up in poverty-stricken New York City during the 1970s and 1980s, Gibson was surrounded by the seemingly lucrative—yet dangerous—drug lifestyle that plagued many communities of color at the time. Although he found a steady means of living, this was all put in jeopardy after his mother’s passing.
“After my mother passed away, I just went to the streets,” Gibson said.
Gibson said that he had nowhere else to turn. For him, he found comfort away from his problems with alcohol. He found himself going down an all too familiar path with no real direction. But a growing need to add structure to his life and self-awareness gave him the instinct to remove himself from that environment— and this choice may have saved his life.
“Going from shelter to shelter, I knew that I needed to get myself to HRA for assistance,” Gibson told the PRESS of Southeast Queens. “I was able to get help through food stamps and the like to carry me over. One criteria to receive the things that would help me bounce back was to attend a program for my alcoholism. I said, ‘No problem.’”
Gibson was referred to the Comprehensive Care Management program, which is run by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. He said that his time spent with the program gave him the opportunity to better himself.
“Various training was available for people like me,” he said. “Computer training, interview skills, resume building, how to converse with people, the importance of using Google. Things like that.”
With the help of Trina Malloy, a vocational specialist with VNSNY, Gibson was able to grasp the tools needed to start a new life. Participants in the program are able to take the skills they acquire and use them to find employment. By 2005, not only had Gibson graduated from the program, but he had also found employment in the most unlikely of places—the very program that helped him gain independence from alcohol addiction and living on the streets.
“I originally came on as a temp and ended up staying on board for two years,” he recalled. “I was told, “Leroy, you’re the longest temp I’ve ever had.’ One day my boss calls me into the office and tells me, ‘When a position opens, we’re hiring you. You hung in there.’”
Gibson has now been employed by the company for seven years.
Malloy, who has become a friend of Gibson over the years, told the Press of Southeast Queens that Gibson was a star in the program, proving that he wanted a better future for himself and showing interest in the well-being of those around him.
“When we would do our workshops, he would take the information that he got and really take it to heart and figure out how he could apply it to his life and what his next steps were,” she said.
She said that he was eager to join the workforce. To this day, Gibson visits Malloy and the others who helped him on his path.
He said that he’s thankful not only for the help that he received, but also for the chance to help others do the same in Southeast Queens.
“The people of Visiting Nurse Service of New York have been like great counselors to me,” he said. “I was able to get away from my past, wake up every morning and go to a job to do what I have to do to make a proper living. When new clients show up, I get to take what I was able to learn and pass it on to others. This is something that I’ve really learned to take a liking to. I am thankful for the opportunity to show that I am capable of doing what I do. This is something that I always had in me and those who helped me over the years brought it out of me.”