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"Ms. Daisy" lives life of service helping San Francisco elderly, disabled remain in their homes

San Francisco woman has spent more than 25 years helping older adults stay safe at home.
San Francisco woman has spent more than 25 years helping older adults stay safe at home. 03:48

A San Francisco woman has spent more than a quarter century helping older adults and people with disabilities remain in their homes safely.

Daisy McArthur lives a life of service because she loves people.

"I say, 'Whatever you do, have patience, have kindness, and listen to them,'" she said.

At age 76, McArthur has worked more than 25 years for the city's In-Home Supportive Services Public Authority. She provides help to low-income elderly and people with disabilities so they can stay in their own homes instead of moving to an institution.

She also serves as secretary of its governing board. Her service is rooted in her Southern upbringing. As a child, she tagged along as her mother and their neighbors responded to emergencies.

"We'd watch them caring for the elderly. People that got sick or snake bites, broke their leg, broke their arm," she described.

McArthur helps her clients with daily tasks like bathing, dressing, cooking, and laundry. She cared for one client for more than 30 years until he passed away recently at age 101. Before that, she cared for his 102-year-old mother.

The job is not easy and can be lonely, but McArthur knows she's making a difference.

"I want to treat myself the way I would treat you, and that's what kindness is. The golden rule," McArthur said.

Executive director Eileen Norman says McArthur is the perfect role model, mentor and trainer for 22,000 in-home supportive service providers in San Francisco.

"Ms. Daisy is warm, loving, empathetic, and no-nonsense," Norman said. "Most of all, Ms. Daisy fights for what she believes in."

When a fire gutted her Bush Street apartment building 25 years ago, she helped fight for emergency relief and housing for three dozen other tenants left homeless, earning her the nickname, "Mayor of Bush Street."

Early into the COVID pandemic, McArthur and one of her clients became spokespersons for older adults getting vaccinations when many were skeptical of the vaccine.

She also has organized memorials and burials for several unhoused people she'd come to know.

In the end, McArthur just wants to help people thrive.      

"I hope they remember the kindness, the good, the work that I did," she said. "There's an old song, 'May the work I do speak for me."

So for going above and beyond in providing in-home care and training, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Daisy McArthur.

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