Senior living companies launch Harvey relief efforts as Irma looms

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A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite captures Tropical Storm Harvey Aug. 30 hours after it makes landfall again, just west of Cameron, LA. (Photo: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite captures Tropical Storm Harvey Aug. 30 hours after it makes landfall again, just west of Cameron, LA. (Photo: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

As senior living providers in Florida brace for the possible effects of Hurricane Irma, operators with properties in Texas are beginning relief efforts to help those affected by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.

Harvey made landfall Aug. 25 as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of more than 130 mph, causing catastrophic flooding and damage. The most powerful storm to hit Texas in more than 50 years, Harvey brought more than 50 inches of rain to Houston. Officials count at least 60 deaths related to the storm, according to some media reports.

Erickson Living has contributed $2 million to its newly created Eagle's Trace Employee Relief Fund to assist staff members of its Eagle's Trace retirement community in West Houston, and to their families, the company announced Sunday.

“This unprecedented storm has brought tremendous personal challenges to Eagle's Trace staff, including the loss of property and personal belongings,” Erickson Living CEO Alan Butler said. “Our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this devastating storm, and the Erickson Living family is committed to assisting the dedicated Eagle's Trace professionals and their families with the help and support they need.”

Thursday, Butler and other Erickson Living executives will visit Eagle's Trace to share details of the relief fund and learn more about ways the company and retirement community can support future needs.

Eagle's Trace is one of 20 properties that Erickson Living operates across 11 states. The company employs more than 14,000 workers and serves more than 24,000 residents.

Buckner International, which has six Buckner Retirement Services continuing care retirement communities in Texas, also has created a fund to help victims of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey, including the company's own employees.

On its website, the company tells the story of Shirley Campbell, an assisted living certified nursing assistant and 33-year employee of the Parkway Place community in Houston. She was stranded in her home with her husband for four days without power, according to the company, but finally got to the community when she and her husband loaded their vehicle onto a stranger's trailer hitch, crossed the flooded streets to dry ground, and drove around backstreets.

Vero Beach, FL-based Watercrest Senior Living Group is spearheading a $100,000 “Watercrest CARES” fundraising initiative in support of Samaritan's Purse for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief.

Watercrest CEO Marc Vorkapich and Chief Financial Officer Joan Williams launched the campaign with a $10,000 donation. Samaritan's Purse is a Christian organization led by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, serving victims of disaster worldwide.

“Watercrest Senior Living Group was founded upon a mission to honor our fathers and mothers, to act as faithful stewards and model servant leadership as we inspire a sense of community through our Common Unity Initiatives,” Vorkapich said. “We are compelled to answer the call of those in need by supporting a like-minded Christian organization, the Samaritan's Purse, as we rally our communities to aid the victims of Hurricane Harvey by any means.”

In addition to raising funds, Watercrest associates, residents, family members and community partners are coordinating Resident Letters of Hope and the collection of goods and supplies for church missions aiding Hurricane Harvey victims.

“These are the moments where mission statements are put into action, and we have the ability to make a profound impact on countless lives,” Williams said. “We humbly request and encourage all our community partners, large and small, to join our efforts in aiding the tens of thousands of victims of Hurricane Harvey.”

The Texas Assisted Living Association, an Argentum state partner, also is collecting gift card donations for member communities affected by Harvey. See the link for more information about how to donate via mail or email. TALA also suggests donations to the Red Cross. Argentum has committed to matching up to $50,000 in relief efforts to aid Argentum-member communities negatively affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“Although we have been heartened to hear that most member companies were prepared for and able to deal with the catastrophic damage caused by Harvey, we are committed to aiding those communities and their employees needing assistance,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda said in a statement. For more information about how to donate funds and gift card contributions, visit argentum.org/harvey.

The three Houston-area assisted living and memory care communities of Silver Spring, MD-based Meridian Senior Living were fully open and operating Sunday, welcoming seniors displaced by Harvey and in need of respite, month-to-month or long-term accommodations.

The communities are functioning thanks to the efforts of friends, family, community volunteers and local municipalities, according to the company.

“I am almost at a loss for words as I express extreme gratitude,” Kevin Carlin, principal and chief sales officer of Meridian Senior Living, said in a statement. “We celebrate so many good times, but it is sometimes the challenges in life that really define us. I pontificated as I drove from League City to Austin about all of the preparation and the unplanned actions that went into this, and I realized how incredible our teams really are. I was honored to serve with our teams as we prepared for and endured the one of the worst hurricanes in history. All made our residents' safety the highest priority, worked tirelessly during Harvey, and drove hundreds of miles before it reached landfall to ensure everyone had the necessary supplies to be as prepared as possible.”

The company is offering space at its other Texas and Oklahoma communities, too.

Irvine, CA-based real estate investment trust HCP Inc. said Thursday that most of its senior living communities in storm-affected areas were open and fully operational.

“Three operating and one triple-net senior housing communities were evacuated due to water intrusion and to ensure the safety of our residents,” the company said in a statement. “Remediation work has begun and residents are expected to return over the coming days and weeks.”

The REIT said its affected assets are covered by property and business interruption insurance, and it expects that all damages will be insured under existing policies, subject to “modest” deductibles.

“Our thoughts go out to the many people impacted by this devastating storm,” said HCP President and CEO Tom Herzog. “Brookdale and our other operating partners, along with our on-site teams, were well-prepared and continue to work diligently to ensure the safety of our residents and tenants.”

Although Lee's Summit, MO, is hundreds of miles away from Harvey-affected areas, the public safety department of John Knox Village was on alert and ready to spring into action if support was needed in southeastern Texas and elsewhere.

The life plan community said it is one of the only retirement communities in the country with its own ambulance service, which is staffed by 13 paramedics, 24 emergency medical technicians and other emergency management services professionals. Although its main focus is on providing care and service to the resident and associates of John Knox Village, the emergency medical services team often serves surrounding communities.

During emergency situations, John Knox Village can allocate resources and manpower to assist city and state response efforts without adversely affecting the safety or well-being of people on its campus. For example, the community sent one of its four ambulances and a responder team when an EF-5 tornado hit Joplin, MO, in 2011.

“John Knox Village is on several official response resource lists ranging from emergency medical and security force strike team participation to refugee and evacuee acceptance when or if needed,” said Craig Faith, director of public safety.

The community stands ready to continue to offer assistance as areas enter into the recovery phase and long-term needs will become apparent, he said. “As time passes, assistance needs will become more known to organizations, and we'll be ready.”

Miravida Living in Oshkosh, WI, offered to coordinate transportation and provide care for the residents of the La Vita Bella assisted living community in Dickinson, TX, who gained national media attention after a tweet showed them sitting in rising floodwater.

The organization also offered a studio apartment to La Vita Bella's owner/administrator.

Donations from residents of The Clairmont, a Holiday Retirement community in Amarillo, TX, and others Tuesday will be headed to areas affected by Harvey after a donation drive collected baby products, canned goods, dog food and other items, according to myhighplains.com.

The Roland Park Place continuing care retirement community in Baltimore is among the senior living communities donating to the LeadingAge Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund, according to WBAL-TV. Another, according to the Suffolk News-Herald, is Lake Prince Woods, a United Church Homes & Services life plan community in Suffolk, VA, which is planning to raise funds through a bake sale this Friday.

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