California Wildfires – Life brings us to unexpected places. Love brings us home

“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.

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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.


Jean Garboden, Director of Education & Innovation at Compass Senior Living

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

 

 

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Teresa

Pat Monahan led a pop tabs project in partnership with Ronald McDonald.  She saw a need and decided to see if her friends and family could help fill that need.  After decades of giving this elder feels like she has just begun to give!

As a life enrichment director of an assisted living in Redding California, it was a life-changing epiphany to realize that my job was not to entertain our elders, but to create avenues to bring purpose to their lives. I have the privilege of working with the most generous and sacrificial generation.

  • A generation who gave through coming together and surviving the Great Depression.
  • A generation who served and defended our nation through World War II.
  • A generation who created a stable and thriving economy through hard work and ingenuity after the war.
  • A generation  who  ran households and who created and grew businesses.
  • A generation of war heroes who deserve to live with purpose and joy.

In retirement, though many of these elders enjoy and pursue hobbies, interests. and other goals time now allows; they still innately love and desire to share a legacy and a spirit of generosity to give with purpose.

As this epiphany of bringing purpose to the forefront began to sink in, we began to intentionally create opportunities for our residents to give, and our residents came alive in ways we had never seen.

Residents who did not usually participate in our games, parties, or activities, would come to events centered around helping others.

  • We gave 25 backpacks to local children in need.
  • We adopted a kindergarten class in a local elementary school for whom we threw monthly parties and gave lots of hugs.
  • We raised enough money to give 35 families turkeys for Thanksgiving.
  • We collected the largest shipment of pop tabs used to raise funds that the Northern California Ronald McDonald House in Sacramento has ever received.

This was all accomplished by a group of 45 elders, their families, and our Sundial Assisted Living team. This generation does not see elderhood as a time just to sit back and receive after decades of hard work. They want to continue giving and growing through helping others and passing on this spirit of generosity to following generations.


About the guest author:  Holly Heleniak, Community Relations Director, Sundial Assisted Living, Redding California

holly-head-shotHolly says, “I consider myself truly blessed to have a job which allows me to spend time having fun and creating memories with incredible people.” Previously, Holly was a part of an international Christian ministry for ten years, traveling around the United States and abroad. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University and proudly hails from the state of Texas. Outside of work, Holly enjoys traveling, interior decorating, sports, being an aunt, and very soon a mom for the first time! . She also enjoys being involved in her local church. And of course, a great joy is singing and entertaining  residents with other Sundial team members!