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Carillon Assisted Living of Garner Served as Temporary Home for Southport Residents and Staff After Hurricane Florence Damage

There was a temporary addition to Carillon Assisted Living’s communities, one the respective executive directors have jokingly labeled “Garport.” The name symbolizes the combination of folks at one of our newest communities in Garner and several dozen residents, staff members, and their families from Southport.

On September 13th, Southport residents and staff bundled up in a caravan that included a rented 56-passenger bus, two Carillon vans, and several staff members’ cars, and they all headed north for the 170-mile drive from the oceanside community of Southport to Garner, NC.

That was the day Hurricane Florence first threatened the East Coast and subsequently touched off swollen rivers and flooding around North Carolina. Southport residents camped out in Garner for the next two weeks, and on September 26th, they were finally able to return home.

“My staff has been amazing,” says Southport Executive Director Ann Worley. “Most people left their families behind, not knowing what their homes will be like when they returned. They’ve been working 12-hour days, and it was more than a week before some were able to take a day off.”

Because Carillon of Garner recently opened in April, it had the most open rooms and was far enough inland to escape the worst of the storm. The building also has two memory care communities, the first of its kind in Carillon communities, so they were able to provide full accommodations and furniture. Garner staff and residents agreed to take in the folks from Southport and welcomed them with open arms.

Even though Garner staff members had to invest extra hours to welcome the visitors, the scope of the hurricane damage helped everyone keep a proper perspective. In addition to the extensive disaster planning Carillon does, team members from both facilities approached the task with a “can-do” attitude, which helped alleviate some of the stress that often accompanies emergencies.

This experience provided the entire Garner team a great opportunity to see what it will be like with a full building. “We have been projecting and strategizing as we have combined our two teams. Fortunately, we didn’t have any flooding, and the only damage was to dumpster doors outside. We never lost power, so we were very fortunate,” says Harlie Dillard, Administrator in Training at Carillon of Garner.

These two communities weren’t the only ones involved in the Carillon effort. Carillon of North Raleigh helped to provide extra food, water and supplies, while the team in Fuquay-Varina helped with transportation and providing additional housing for staff members.

A maintenance crew visited Southport on September 21st to assess the damage and start cleaning up, but it took more than restoring power and drying up water. Roads were heavily flooded and bridges washed away, but the Carillon team worked diligently to ensure a safe and efficient return home to Southport.

One aspect of “Garport” that Harlie is most pleased about is the unique atmosphere. Residents were happy and vivacious, she says. Harlie points to increased interest in bingo and other activities.

“If you walk in here, you can feel the excitement,” she says. “There’s a lot going on. People are coming in with stories about what they like to do; it’s created opportunities to do things. Every part of our activities department is glowing. When managers got together late at night at 11 o’clock, we sat around, eating popcorn and talking to residents. It’s like a family.”

Southport team members had to get on the phone to call residents’ families the day of the evacuation, which went fairly smoothly, Ann says. And, a good flow of relatives have been stopping in to visit residents.

“I’m okay with it,” Ann says with a chuckle when asked what it feels like to be uprooted. “Thankfully, we were in a safe place and had what we needed. A lot of people don’t.”

The Southport residents and team members arrived safely back at their home in Southport on Wednesday, September 26th. Residents are getting settled in, and everyone is ecstatic to be home.

Posted in Sage Stories on September 27, 2018

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