Ardist Brown, also known as Butch, has had quite a year as head concierge at 10 West 66th. On the heels of recovering from COVID-19 last March, he returned to work and immediately became a lifeline to some of the senior residents in the building who lived alone.
For his initiative and exceptional service, he was honored as one of the essential worker “Heroes of 2020” at the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square.
Now, also an honoree for the Building Service Worker Awards, Brown says he is no celebrity.
“I’m just a guy who got sick, came back to work and started helping others,” he said.
Brown’s commitment to service goes back over 34 years. He started out as an exterminator servicing the building where he now works and met several doormen and concierge on staff there. He decided to make a switch and ended up working the overnight shift for 20 years. During that time, he took advantage of the many computer courses 32BJ offered and enjoyed learning as much as he could in this arena. When the front office systems all became computerized in subsequent years, the resident manager invited Brown to apply for a daytime shift as the head concierge. He said he was not really interested at the time but told his manager he would think about it.
“The next day he [the manager] comes to me with a letter and says, ‘read this’ and he walks away. I opened the letter and it said ‘Congratulations’. He gave me the position before I could even get back to him,” Brown said. He said he was shocked but “it also felt good inside” that someone saw something in him to make the offer.
He has been the head concierge for almost 15 years now. The past year of the pandemic has required being of service in different ways. As the city thinned out during the early months of 2020, about half of the residents remained in the building, some of whom were elderly and living alone.
“Every day I had an obligation to check in with them.” Brown said. “They weren’t going out during the pandemic, some of them didn’t even know how to order online, so I had to help them,” Brown said. “I had to make sure some of them were getting food. A lot of them do have family, but their family was somewhere quarantined.”
Every Tuesday when he got off work at 3 p.m., he would drive to a local nonprofit where his friend worked distributing boxes filled with a week’s worth of food, pack his truck with up to 30 boxes, and drive back to the building to stock two big fridges in the lobby area. The next day he distributed the food to those seniors who needed it. He did this for about four months from the start of the pandemic through the summer, while still weak from the after-effects of the coronavirus.
“It did my heart good,” Brown said. “And that’s pretty much what I got from this pandemic: that we all could make a difference.”