“We are evacuating” This is the text message I received On Thursday, July 26 at 9:54 pm from Candis Willis, the Compass Senior Living Director of Operations for the SW Region. Sundial Assisted Living, located in Redding California – where 45 residents needed to get away from the ever-expanding fires, now nearing their address on Hilltop Road.
Candis Willis, Compass Senior Living Director of Operations and Suzanna Trompszynski, the Administrator at Sundial had attended a Disaster preparedness Symposium in Sacramento exactly one month earlier on June 26th, 2018.
Little did Suzanna know that exactly one month later she would be in a position to act.
Plan A July 26
The morning of July 26th Suzanna rented a Uhaul to prepare to take the med cart and wheelchairs if an evacuation was needed. She prepped the residents and the team. She made sure everyone had a change of clothing ready. Suzanna called all of the family members to let them know that they were preparing in the event they needed to evacuate.
As the fire reports came in during the day, some of the families came and took their loved ones home with them into an area not at risk of the fires.
When the text message came to me from Candis at 9:54 pm, they were leaving Sundial with 24 residents – transporting in employee cars. They were hoping to find a hotel to check everyone into. They learned quickly that all hotels south of Redding were fully booked, as many people had already evacuated from their homes to hotels.
Plan B July 26 was to take everyone to our sister Community in Citrus Heights California, Sun Oak Senior Living – east of Sacramento. The Administrator, Kaye Key indicated they were prepared to take the residents. About 2 am the weary travelers arrived, and spent the night at Sun Oak Senior Living, safely together. They were warmly welcomed and comforted by the Sun Oak team.
The next morning, Suzanna got word that the evacuation was lifted and they started the return journey home to Redding.
But – on the way home they learned how unpredictable this fire was and discovered it was not yet safe to go back to Sundial Assisted Living.
Plan C – July 27
Suzanna and seven of her employees decided to take the residents to their own homes. The remarkable courage and commitment of the team was a beautiful expression of care and love. They ate together, played together, and gave great comfort and courage to one another.
Love Brings them home
Saturday, July 28, the residents that had been on this rescue journey were able to return home to Sundial Assisted Living. By Monday, July 30, all of the residents, including those who were staying with families are expected to come back to their home.
But that’s not all. Mark Broadhead who grew up in Redding and is now retired from the Airforce wanted to help his hometown. Mark lives in Gig Harbor Washington now. He appealed to the residents of Gig Harbor, and as a result, he arrived on Sunday, July 29th with over 3000 pounds of water and food and supplies for the evacuation centers in Redding. Mark, the son of Candis Willis continues to serve his country and his community with acts of love and kindness. His generosity and honorable acts were embraced with gratitude.
We are all connected – and in trying times heroes emerge, and character is defined.
This is a story of heroism and courage. It is also a story about being prepared. This is a call to all of us who have the responsibility for the precious lives of elders to plan, protect and prepare so you can act with confidence, critical thinking, and yes – with love too.
In the end – Love always brings us home!
(There is another Disaster training in September. Check it out! )
As the time of this posting 98,724 acres are involved, and 20% contained. 720+ homes in Shasta county are destroyed. over 1,000+ structures destroyed. 6 fatalities (including 2 firefighters), 7 people are missing. 35,000+ people evacuated. Many in evacuation centers in Shasta County. Please send your prayers and thoughts to the people impacted by this tragedy.
About the author: Jean Garboden is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living in Eugene, Oregon. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada