The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

As the situation in Sonoma County continues to develop, Covia is working with our communities  Jennings Court and Spring Lake Village in Santa Rosa, with Friends House in Santa Rosa (with whom we have a management agreement), with our Community Services program participants throughout the county, and with our employees to ensure everyone’s safety.

Friday, November 1, 2019

10:00 am

We’re pleased that life is starting to return to normal in our communities. We continue to be grateful to the firefighters who are still working to contain the Kincade fire, which as of this writing is only 68% contained. And we offer comfort and condolences to all who have sustained losses or been traumatized during this past week.

All residents have returned to Jennings Court and were welcomed home with a communal meal of chili. Residents are continuing to return to Spring Lake Village and Friends House. Covia employees who evacuated are also returning to their homes. Welcome home, everyone!

Unless there are further developments, this will be the final update on this blog post.  

Thursday, October 31, 2019

11:30am

Containment of the Kincade fire is now at 60%. In Santa Rosa, all evacuation orders and warnings have been lifted. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

4:40pm

Power has been restored to Spring Lake Village.

2:45pm

The Evacuation Order for Jennings Court has been downgraded to an Evacuation Warning. Residents are allowed to repopulate with advisement that a warning is still in place. 

1:30pm

Power has been restored at Friends House. 

10:00am

Winds overnight were not as strong as predicted, which allowed firefighters to hold the line. Containment of the fire is now up to 30%, according to Cal Fire. Winds are projected to be calmer through today though a Red Flag warning is still active.

Friends House and Spring Lake Village continue to shelter in place, remaining on alert, though a mandatory evacuation is unlikely today. Power remains out at both locations.

Power has been restored to Jennings Court though the mandatory evacuation is still in place.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

9:30 am

Friends House and Spring Lake Village continue to shelter in place. Although a mandatory evacuation is unlikely today, we remain on alert. Our main concern at this time is the air quality, and we continue to encourage our Independent Living residents to consider voluntary evacuation.

Representatives from PG&E contacted Spring Lake Village to report that they will not have power restored today because the community is too close to the fire zone to be able to inspect the lines before they would be required to turn off the power again. The community is receiving deliveries of food and fuel.

At Friends House, Executive Director Clara Allen reports that the County Ombudsman visited the campus on Monday to check on residents and provide support.  

According to the report from Cal Fire updated at 7:30 this morning, “Favorable weather conditions will enhance firefighting efforts in the morning while narrow roads and steep terrain are still making access to the fire areas difficult. Weather predictions show Northeast wind gusts picking up this evening. Firefighters will continue to mitigate structure threats and find opportunities to construct more control lines.” We are hopeful that firefighters will be able to make further progress in containing the fire throughout the day.

Monday, October 28, 2019

7:30 am

There have been no new developments overnight. Spring Lake Village and Friends House remain in a state of watchful readiness. With almost no winds forecast for today, we are hopeful that firefighters will be able to make some progress in containing the Kincade fire today. We do not expect to see mandatory evacuations put in place today, but will be ready in case we receive the order.

Employees: please report to work at your usual time if you are able. If you have evacuated out of the area or are unable to report to work, please inform your supervisor and HR manager. Thank you!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

6:00 pm

There is little new information to report.

The Executive Directors of Friends House and Spring Lake Village report that there has been no change. Covia has spent much of the day working to support the staff on-site, ensuring that Friends House and Spring Lake Village are fully prepared to evacuate, should a mandatory evacuation order be put in place. Winds in the region are blowing southwest and the fires does not appear to be getting any closer to the communities.

Friends House and Spring Lake Village have suggested voluntary evacuation to those residents who have a safe place to go. This allows residents time to relocate to a place of their choice with more time to prepare. It also allows the reduced number of staff to focus on helping residents at a higher level of care both in providing for their daily needs and in the case of a mandatory evacuation.

Jennings Court has been evacuated, although a few residents have refused to vacate the premises. The Santa Rosa Police Department has been informed of the residents who have chosen to remain on site.

Social Call Santa Rosa has ensured that its most vulnerable participants have been able to evacuate.

Employees should keep their supervisors and HR department informed about their availability.

Please stay safe!

8:00 am
As of now, Jennings Court is under an evacuation order. Sadie Bracy, Jennings Court’s Housing Administrator, is facilitating the evacuation and Karim Sultan, VP of Affordable Housing is providing support. All but a few Jennings residents have relocations sites they have individually chosen. Those who do not have another evacuation site are being provided with a place to stay in Oakland.

As of this writing, Friends House and Spring Lake Village are outside the mandatory evacuation order zone, but we are encouraging voluntary evacuations. Residents are asked to please inform their communities if they are evacuating, along with their new location and contact information. If you are a resident who has evacuated or are otherwise off-site and not informed your community of your location, please contact your community as soon as possible.

Social Call Sonoma County has reached out to participants to check on their safety.

Employees should report to Spring Lake Village or Friends House for their normal shift as they are able. If you are unable to report to work, please inform your HR department and supervisor as soon as possible. We are working to communicate with all staff today. Please follow any evacuation orders you receive.

We will provide further updates as the situation develops.

Originally published in the Spring Lake Village resident newsletter – special October edition

As part of what was labeled a “Public Safety Power Shutoff event” by PG&E and dubbed a “Massive Blackout” by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Spring Lake Village residents and staff were without electrical power midweek during the second week in October 2019.

Residents and staff relied on generators—big and small— battery-operated lanterns, ingenuity, problem solving and community spirit to weather the corporate-made outage.

Planning for a big storm or an earthquake started in the 2013 re-model of the Village Center when a new generator system was installed. This generator powered the kitchen and emergency lighting throughout the week. “Don’t worry, we’ll have lots to eat,” promised Dining Director Larry Brooks.

Melissa Anderson, Activities Director for Assisted Living residents, reports, “The kitchen was amazing, making sure our residents had hot food for all our meals, even though our own kitchen was down. With no elevators, Assisted Living staff went up and down stairs to be sure that the 16 residents on the 2nd floor had all they needed. The staff joked that we lost 10 pounds each in the stair climbing.”

Programs and activities for residents throughout campus continued – with changes necessitated by the lack of electrical power. A 2000 piece Cinque Terre puzzle donated by a resident was moved next to the Great Hall windows for better light. Dogs helped their resident owners stick to a walking schedule, regardless of a power outage.

The swimming pool closing was expected due to the need for filter, circulation and pool heating systems. What was unexpected was the prompt steaming up of the floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the heated pool area. With the power outage, there was a fear of mold developing from lack of air circulation. Staff rigged up generators and fans to keep the air moving.

A power strip and generator with the sign Charging Station turned out to be a big hit. “What started as a single table, doubled in size to accommodate the demand as dozens of devices were recharged at the station on the Creekside Patio,” reported Facilities Director Dennis McLean.

Seventy motion-detector, solar-powered walkway lights installed in September lit up the covered sidewalks. The lights worked well during the power outage. For many residents, the first and last word was “the lantern” which lit up kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms and halls. “You need to have at least three,” was the agreed-to number. “I bought four for Christmas gifts and used them all,” exclaimed another resident.

Small generators were threaded into the business offices around the Village Center and Resident Health Services. Keeping computers going was essential to maintain “business as usual.”

No power meant no school, but if you were lucky, you became part of the impromptu Spring Lake Village Take Your Kids to Work Day. Bistro Sous Chef Adrian Alberto brought his three daughters to work to provide a no-school day option. Housekeeper Carmen provided on-the-spot assistance with activities. “We wanted to make sure our staff had an option for taking care of their kids,” reports Assistant Executive Director Kris Hermanson on the “bring your kids” impromptu program.

Anderson adds, “As we delivered the trays, the residents were so concerned about us, asking about our kids, our homes, our families and our power situation, wanting to make sure we were safe. The residents adapted to the routine, without a negative word. We are family.”

October 1st through 7th mark Active Aging Week, a weeklong celebration of living well and aging well initiated by the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA).

The term active naturally conjures up images of exercising or other physical activities, but active aging encompasses far more than just keeping oneself physically fit. The ICAA highlights seven dimensions of wellness: from physical and emotional wellness to less well known dimensions like environmental and vocational. The point of Active Aging Week is to highlight that active aging involves more than just keeping the body fit; it’s about recognizing all of the different aspects that allow one to age with purpose.

“Active aging is choosing to live life with vitality and meaning,” notes Diane Waltz, Director of Wellness at Spring Lake Village. In the hustle and bustle of life, it can be easy to forget about how important it is to consider all of the dimensions of wellness, which is what makes Active Aging Week so crucial.

Covia & Active Aging

Covia strives to support every dimension of wellness through community programs and amenities as well as community services.

Activities and classes support physical, emotional, and intellectual wellness within Covia’s Life Plan communities. Engaging exercise activities like line dancing and chair volleyball keep residents both physically and socially engaged as they exercise in a group setting. Creative classes like beading and card making allow residents to pursue their emotional wellness by creating pieces of art. Regularly updated libraries that foster engaging book clubs improve intellectual wellness alongside activities such as Brain Fitness and Brain Builders. Life Plan communities even support vocational wellness with the opportunity to volunteer for causes like Habitat for Humanity or local food banks.

Environmental Wellness

Covia is also dedicated to environmental wellness through CoviaGreen, initiated by residents and staff at St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland. CoviaGreen is a committee-led program that focuses on sustainable living and environmental responsibility. This takes the form of the CoviaGreen pledge, which highlights a number of ways that residents and staff can reduce their negative impact on the environment from eating seasonal fruits and vegetables to turning off lights and appliances when not in use.

Beyond the pledge, the greater St. Paul’s Towers community has also implemented changes to promote environmental wellness. These changes include making Impossible Burgers available at all meals and adopting housekeeping programs that allow residents to forgo cleaning if it is not needed. CoviaGreen was created with the intent that it will inspire other communities to make a similar commitment to environmental responsibility.

Spiritual Wellness

With an Episcopal heritage, it would be easy to assume that spiritual wellness at Covia is tied directly to religion. But spiritual wellness encompasses far more than just religious practices or beliefs. Each Covia senior living community has its own chaplain who is tasked with supporting residents and staff from a myriad of religious backgrounds.

Chaplains guide the spiritual health of the community, which can take the form of religious services but more broadly supports spiritual wellness by being someone that residents can talk to for any type of spiritual help. Kevin Philips, chaplain at Canterbury Woods says, “A chaplain finds joy in nurturing the human spirit by offering kindness, connection and an empathetic ear.” Having support can be the first step in cultivating a stronger sense of spiritual wellness.

Social Wellness

Covia Community Services are dedicated to improving social wellness in older adults. Programs like Well Connected and Social Call were created with the intent to decrease social isolation and forge connections between people that might not otherwise have had the opportunity to connect. Well Connected creates community through group sessions available over the phone that range in topic from book clubs and armchair travel to museum tours and garden talk. The program provides the opportunity to connect with others and talk or learn about a shared interest without ever stepping outside the home.

Social Call, a friendly visitor program, connects volunteers and participants for one-on-one meetings, either in person or over the phone. Participants and volunteers can discuss anything of interest as they forge bonds that combat social isolation. “Both volunteers and seniors are looking for social connections and Social Call is a conduit for that,” says Katie Wade, Director of Social Call. It’s easier to support social wellness with programs that simplify what is often the hardest part of social interaction, forging the initial connection.

Redefine Active

It can be easy to forget about all of the different aspects of wellness that contribute to overall health. Campaigns like Active Aging Week are dedicated to bringing these different yet important pieces to the forefront where they can be examined and adopted into daily life. As Alex Gerasimov, Life Enrichment Manager, notes “Aging is normal and a part of human evolution. By staying active along the aging journey, you will feel better, look younger, and improve your overall quality of life.”

Covia aims to support all of their residents, staff, and community members so that it is easier to incorporate each dimension of wellness into daily life. Happy Active Aging Week! Here’s to aging with purpose and a wider understanding of all that makes that possible.

If you are considering moving to a Senior Living Community – but not just yet – there’s another option available to you: joining a waiting list.

Too often, people start looking for senior living options after a need arises, leaving them scrambling for the first available option, even if it isn’t what they truly want. You may be thinking that a move to a Life Plan Community is something that will happen 2, 3, 5 or more years down the line. It’s still worth taking steps now so that when the time comes, you’ll get what you want.

Of course visiting in person is an important part of the process. Each community has a different personality. Getting to know a community, asking your questions, and meeting other residents makes it more likely you will choose a place that feels like home.

But if you’ve come to the event, taken the tour, and still think it’s not the right time to move, joining the community’s waiting list gives you the chance to consider the pros and cons while reserving your place for the residence you want.

“A waiting list is a terrific opportunity to secure your future plans without a large commitment of time or money,” says Linda McMenamin, Covia’s Senior Director of Sales and Marketing. “Often people will join wait lists at multiple communities to ensure they have options in the event their needs change and they are ready to make a move.”

Joining a waiting list at the community – or communities – of your choice has other benefits as well.

If you do decide to put down a deposit, be sure to ask how long the waiting list is for the home style you’d like, and what the expected waiting time is. Many times, larger homes have longer waiting lists, which may affect your plans. Talk with your senior living counselor about your plans and timeline and they will do their best to accommodate you.

Some communities may have a limit on the number of times you can turn down an apartment offered to you without losing your place on the waiting list. Although you are not obligated to accept a home presented to you, this may mean that eventually you won’t be the first person called.

But when you do get the call for the home you want, at the time you want it, you can feel comfort and confidence knowing the plan you’ve put in place is working as you hoped.

On August 3rd, over 170 residents from Covia Communities gathered at Spring Lake Village for the fourth annual Circle of Friends luncheon. This summer luncheon raises awareness for and supports the Circle of Friends Fund, which provides assistance to Covia life plan community residents who have outlived their resources.

This year’s luncheon pulled from the theme of the Golden State of California for food and decoration inspiration. Executive chefs and their staff from St. Paul’s Towers, San Francisco Towers, and Spring Lake Village prepared a four course meal that spanned everything from heirloom tomatoes with burrata and aged balsamic to a princess cake paired with coffee and tea. Beyond the luncheon, attendees participated in a raffle and wine pull with wine donated from Covia executive staff, the Circle of Friends planning committee, and Kendall Jackson Wineries.

The Circle of Friends luncheon wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of the planning committee, which is made up of Covia Communities residents, members of the Covia Foundation and partners from Morrison Community Living. Committee members are brought together by their desire to raise awareness for the Circle of Friends Fund.

Committee member and Spring Lake Village resident Patricia Wilson notes, “when we signed up to help out on organizing the first Circle of Friends luncheon in 2016, it was simply the contagious enthusiasm of creating an event to enlarge the Circle — the Circle of Friends. Then each successive year, it has been the creative challenge to increase the participation in the Circle. It has gone from ‘creating an event’ to ‘how can we increase the awareness of what the Circle of Friends means and does.’ The best part, we are always thinking, ‘what can we do better?’”

The Circle of Friends Fund helps Life Plan residents who have outlived their resources to pay their residential fees. Residents who receive support are on average in their 90s, have lived in a Covia community for over 16 years and are primarily single, having outlived their partners. Part of Covia’s promise is that residents will be provided with support whenever they need it, and the Circle of Friends Fund is one way Covia helps fulfill this promise within the communities.

In attendance at the event was Van Moller, an acclaimed pianist and long-time resident of Spring Lake Village, who delights the community with weekly performances. Moller, who says, “moving to Spring Lake Village in 2004 gave me the opportunity to play and sing more than at any other time in my life”, has created a DVD of his piano performances, now available as a thank you gift for those who donate to the Circle of Friends Fund. This gift is an extension of Moller’s enjoyment of “sharing his love of music with neighbors and friends at Spring Lake Village.”

This year’s Circle of Friends luncheon was a rousing success from the participation by the communities to the delicious meal crafted by Morrison Community Living chefs. If you are interested in giving to the Circle of Friends Fund, please visit www.covia.org/giving.

2019 Village People

The Village People, Spring Lake Village’s entrant in the Sonoma County Wine Country Games (commonly known as the Senior Games), won their first medal on May 31, 2019, taking third place in the bocce tournament. The team included Capt. Sue Guerra, Don Allison, Brenda and Butch Dippel, Pete Guerra, and Barbara Ware, all residents of Spring Lake Village, a Covia Life Plan Community in Santa Rosa.

The Sonoma County Wine Country Games, a program benefiting the Council on Aging, encourages healthy activity and social engagement for anyone 50+ through education, connections, and the spirited competition of sport, inspiring all to take an active role in determining the quality of their aging experience. Along with bocce, events include basketball, cycling, pickleball, tennis, volleyball and more.

In the bocce tournament, teams competed with each team playing three 50-minute games.  If teams did not finish in 50 minutes, the existing score at the time was used. At the end of the three games, four teams were eliminated from competition based on number of games won and point count.  The two remaining teams with the highest point count played each other for first and second place.  The two other remaining teams played for third place.

In the first round, The Village People beat a team from Oakmont called Varenna #2, lost to Fountaingrove (another Oakmont Team), and beat the Collectiballs, a Santa Rosa league team, giving them enough points and wins to progress to the second round. After defeating Varenna #2 a second time, the Village People squared off against the Go Getters for their chance to win the bronze medal. 

Congratulations to the Village People for their third place win!

This essay by Chaplain Jacquie Robb was originally published in the Spring Lake Village newsletter.

We talk a lot about community here at Spring Lake Village. The conversations are usually about joining the community. . .what it’s like to eat with others in the dining room, how to navigate the programs and events. It’s only later, after residents have been here a while, that I hear about the heart of community rather than the logistics.

Most communities form around an intention, from the ancient spiritual communities of many faith traditions – the monasteries of Christians and Buddhists, the Hindu ashrams – to the 60s communes and the modern eco-villages. It got me wondering if we hold a common intention here at Spring Lake Village.

When I ask people why they moved here, what I hear most often is “so I won’t be a burden to my children,” or “so there will be people to take care of me.” Seldom do I hear anyone say that their primary motive for moving here is to be part of a community. It seems almost an unintended consequence of their motives.

And yet, here we are – all 450+ residents and over 250 staff – living and working together. How might we refine our intention in living here to develop more of a sense of community, of “being in it together?”

This takes time. We don’t know how this community works on us until we’ve lived here for a while. Many of those who evacuated last year returned with a renewed sense of community. Did this fade over time for you or did it grow? Did you make new friends, deepen the friendships you had?

Maybe we don’t know until we’ve lived here for a while how we will grow into community. I see so many residents find a renewed purpose, rejoicing that being retired doesn’t mean retiring; living into a growing understanding that a sense of true community, like true friendship, means thinking about what’s good for “us” and not just me.

Maybe we can’t know until we’ve lived here for a while the joys and challenges and ultimately the great freedom inherent in interdependence.

Many of us have helped our children’s schools, our neighborhoods or towns before coming here, but it takes a while to learn how we can serve this type of community. Planning movies and concerts, joining a committee, visiting those who need a bit of company are all manifestations of being of service. But there’s also an inner attitude that I hear expressed by so many of us – one of gratitude. Gratitude for being cared for by staff, gratitude for feeling safely held through the many transitions we face at this age. Gratitude for the company we share, on this sacred journey through life. I suggest that gratitude expressed and shared is in itself an incredible and enriching service for those offering and those receiving the thanks.

This month, as we celebrate all we are thankful for, we can open ourselves even further to the gratitude of those who make up this community. The axiom “it takes a village” becomes ever clearer as we settle into living here. And the longer we’re here, it seems our community’s intention might best be expressed by our gratitude and service.

Spiritual Care expands far beyond providing Bible studies or religious services. Spiritual wellness – one of the eight dimensions of wellness – is an important part of Covia’s mission to support well-being for the whole person.

The goal of Covia’s spiritual care programs is to enhance the quality of life of every person by building and deepening community, encouraging meaningful connections, supporting people through the grieving process, and providing resources for a purposeful life at any age or stage.

Each Covia Life Plan and Multi-level community has a chaplain who is available to support those of all faiths or none. Rabbi Meredith Cahn, Chaplain at St. Paul’s Towers, explains, “My job as a chaplain is to help people in their spiritual work—dealing with the emotional and spiritual aspects of aging and loss, dealing with relationship that might be challenging, with forgiveness, or even coping with the way the world is right now. I am there to be present at moments of joy and sorrow and in between.”

Covia strives to provide an environment that fosters spiritual well-being for residents, their families and for Covia’s staff. Covia’s guiding principles are deeply informed by basic values of spiritual well-being, including the concepts of welcome, inclusion, social justice and grace; treating one another with respect, civility and dignity; embracing individuality and diversity; and serving with integrity.

Spiritual Care programs and services at Covia do not seek to proselytize or convert, but to support and respect all in their beliefs or traditions. Chaplain Jacquie Robb at Spring Lake Village says, “Most residents have no idea what a chaplain does, so there is usually some hesitation to seeing me. I want them to acclimate to my presence and assure them I’m not ‘selling’ anything. In my mind I hold the idea of a village vicar who is most often a friend but with the added benefit of being able to share matters in confidence, free from judgment.”

The Chaplains work closely with their Life Enrichment department to provide a wide range of programs meeting a variety of spiritual needs. For example, at St. Paul’s Towers, “We have non-denominational ‘sacred time’ on Monday mornings, integrating residents from all floors as well as staff; we have a weekly meeting to discuss the events of the world—to be able to mourn or celebrate or holler or vent about Charlottesville (and the racism and antisemitism it spotlighted), #MeToo, climate change, et cetera. We have just started a widow and widower’s grief group to help residents who have lost their partner. And we have groups on spiritually healthy aging.” Other communities have had programs such as a group discussion on Handel’s Messiah, the Blessing of the Animals on the Feast of St. Francis, a celebration of the Solstice, meditation groups, and much more – including, yes, Bible study! In addition, religious services are available for those from a range of traditions.

It’s not only the communities that offer Spiritual Care programs. Well Connected also offers many opportunities for participants from around the country to meet for support, reflection, meditation, a daily gratitude group, and other spiritual care programs through their phone- or online-based programs. Once each session, Laura Darling, Senior Director of Communication and Spiritual Care, offers a memorial service so that participants can commemorate Well Connected members who have died – an event that is powerful, even for those who have never met. “I’m consistently moved by the way community is built through Well Connected,” says Darling. “It doesn’t matter that they have never met face to face. The relationships among the participants are strong and real, and it’s important that they get a chance to remember and celebrate their friends.”

Above all, Spiritual Care is grounded in kindness and compassion. “Spiritual care provides individual support to people going through their own challenges feeling the love and care they need,” says Rabbi Meredith.

“Spiritual care encompasses so much more than religion and religious services. It encompasses people’s hopes and dreams, their desire for good connections and for a life of meaning. It can help people deal with the real challenges of aging and loss, in a language that meets people where they are.”

October 9 is the anniversary of the devastating fires that swept through Santa Rosa in 2017. Residents from both Spring Lake Village and Jennings Court were evacuated and twelve of Covia’s staff lost their home in the fires.

Here are a few of the stories from our residents and staff. If you have a memory you wish to share, please email it to Laura Darling at ltdarling@covia.org.

Fred Jennings Court resident
I was almost caught in the fire itself. I was housesitting up on the very top of Fountain Grove and taking care of a little dog who was recovering from a broken back surgery. And banging on the door, I ran to the front door, it was 1:00 in the morning, a man was yelling, “We have to leave! We have to leave! Everything is on fire!” I could see the blazes coming up across the street. So the dog and I and everything left there within 12 minutes. Toby is the dog’s name, was so cool, he let me glide him in and glide him out and out we went. And then it was very slow because of all of the traffic coming all the way down. I got home here, and the very next day all our electricity went out. So I carried Toby up and down the stairs for that time when it was out. And here the dog was healing from back injury. Well, his owner has been so kind to me! And I think he would have if we got to know each other, but this was the first time I house sat for him. He always introduces me, “This is Fred who saved Toby.”

Patricia Burke Skilled Nursing Housekeeping, Spring Lake Village

The morning of the fires was chaotic. Our neighbor came and knocked on doors and said we had to get out because the fire was coming. We grabbed the dog and put him in the neighbor’s car and drove off. We didn’t grab anything else because we didn’t ever think we’d lose everything.

We drove away and tried to notify other neighbors by banging on their doors and trying to help with evacuations. Everything was burned the next day when we went back home. I called my supervisor and let her know my house was gone and I wouldn’t be reporting to work. She assured me my job was secure and told me to take my time coming back into work. I was paid for the time I was off, that helped immensely.

After only a few days off, I returned to work, mostly because I needed something to keep my mind off the loss. The entire staff and residents were very compassionate and gave continued hugs (they still do when they see me). There were donations from all areas – LeadingAge California, LeadingAge National, Covia, credit unions, residents, architects, local communities and even co-workers all donated to us. The compassion from executive staff was strong and the ongoing continued support has been paramount to my emotional healing. You don’t ever really get over such devastation, and having co-workers and residents still ask how I’m doing feels really good.

Covia has done a great job of supporting continued communications with co-workers, who were also greatly affected by the fires and we’ve created an internal support group to help each other through the rough times.

We were offered outside counseling and it was important to know, even though I relied on friends and family for support, that the option was available to me.

Renee Hayward Spring Lake Village, Director of Social Services

I remember waking up in the night and running from the fire. The first thing I grabbed was my work clothes because I knew I had to go to work on Monday.

We left and later learned our home and entire neighborhood burned to the ground. When I went back to work on Tuesday, I didn’t know the extent of the fire and didn’t realize until I showed up to Spring Lake Village that we were going to have to evacuate due to smoke damage. As a social worker, I had experience working in these sensitive situations and knew I had to find permanent places, call families, and mostly ensure the sound emotional and medical states of our residents. I was operating in survival mode at that point and just keeping my mind off my own devastation and loss the day prior.

Two days after the fires, we all went to Casa Grande gym to support our memory and skilled nursing residents. Our residents did really well and one said to me, “I used to work at Red Cross and set up for war…this is nothing compared to that.” I called families and helped residents get placed and transferred to other communities as soon as possible. There were 11 of us who lost our homes here and just talking with other staff was very valuable.

Once I knew all the residents were evacuated and settled, I finally took some time off to provide the emotional support to my family. Just driving was tough after the fires as my husband and I were in a fog. During the whole event, I really learned that everyone rallies the few months of the emergency and it was very valuable to have that ongoing support. The hardest part of the whole ordeal is that people who haven’t gone through that kind of total loss don’t understand the timeline. First you battle with insurance and then you are just in basic survival mode. Anything out of the normal, even a simple flat tire, is devastating. You look for things you ”had” and people don’t understand that feeling. Your body is in transition and you feel like you’re on vacation. In addition, you forget your things are gone. The entire situation was tough but it helped me better understand what residents are going through. I now have a greater level of personal empathy for their situations.

I would offer communities that should your staff go through a crisis, don’t be afraid to ask, “how’s it going?” It’s okay to say “I’m sorry” and it’s important to have a staff and a resident meeting that provides updates on all individuals involved. Covia was great at respecting our right to privacy and letting us “tell our story” as we were comfortable.

[Originally printed in LeadingAge California’s Engage Magazine]

Madeleine Jennings Court resident

During the fire, it was terrifying. I don’t know any other way to describe it. We were without power, I think maybe it was only 24 hours, it might have been a little longer. Someone came over to check on me and took me and another friend to her house to recharge our phones because we were without power to recharge phones.

Just knowing that so many people were impacted – and still are. It’s a beautiful community, though, for the fact that those of us who live here are low income and we gave. It wasn’t, “Well, we don’t have enough to give.” When it’s in a situation when you know others need something, everyone pulled together. I would say, “This person’s daughter lost everything and her husband’s a musician.” I had friends give me a banjo, I had guitar music given to me. Just those kind of things mean so much, and I was amazed myself at the things I was willing to part with in order to assist others. So that’s the beauty of it, and it’s something that will live with us for a long, long time.