As wildfires raged across Northern California in October, scores of older adults were evacuated under extremely difficult conditions. Many of these elders had no time to gather personal belongings and did not know if they’d have homes once the flames retreated.
With little notice, the teams at AlmaVia of San Francisco and AlmaVia of San Rafael took in residents of Spring Lake Village in Santa Rosa. Executive Director Pam Hamilton and other team members learned of the need at 1 p.m. on Oct. 10, and the 13 women arrived with almost nothing at 4:30 p.m. Eleven of the women live in Assisted Living at Spring Lake, while one came from Memory Care and one from Independent Living.
Many of the women are in their mid-90s, and the group had evacuated on Oct. 9 to the Petaluma High School gym, where they spent their first night — with many sleeping on the floor. With only minutes to leave their home, the women had no documentation and few medications with them.
Springing into Action
Pam and her team mobilized quickly to create welcome signs and to arrange shopping for all the items the residents would need to be safe and comfortable.
“We packed a car multiple times with repeated trips to Target and Macy’s,” Pam said. Team members bought just about every necessity for the guests, including pajamas, bed frames, mattresses, clothing and toiletries. In addition, residents of AlmaVia of Camarillo lent a helping hand by putting together care packages for the evacuees.
Elder Care Alliance team members also provided transportation for the women.
“Our team at AlmaVia of San Francisco and AlmaVia of San Rafael with our Support Center personnel from Alameda actually drove up to Petaluma in our vehicles and drove them to San Francisco,” Pam said. Only two Spring Lake Village staff made the trip, and they both had to return within a few hours to assess damage and risk to their own property.
Keeping Spirits Up
Wearing new clothing but unsure if their home remained intact, the women were in good spirits in the days following the evacuation, noted Rosemary Jordan, VP Business Development and Strategy for Elder Care Alliance.
President and Chief Executive Officer Adriene Iverson welcomed the new residents and described seeing in the women’s faces the hardship they had endured because of the fires.
“I was humbled and inspired to work alongside my team who welcomed them with caring, dignity and compassion,” Adriene wrote on Facebook. “Please pray for all who have been and may in the future be affected.”