2013-06-06 / Front Page

Community thanked for helping St. Francis Home’s evacuation

BY BRANDY ABRAHAM

THOMAS TWP. – Residents of St. Francis Home never expected the community to reach out to them as much as they did last month when heavy rainfall and flooding threats forced them to evacuate.

On April 17, Thomas Township Fire Chief Michael Cousins came to warn the residents of the assisted living and rehabilitation center that high water was impending. Heavy rains that week caused flooding all over the Great Lakes Bay Region, including along River Road, where the home is located.

“We needed to prepare for the worst,” Sister Margaret Mary Turner, the administrator for St. Francis Home, said. A similar scenario happened when the facility had to be evacuated in 1986 because of flooding, Sister Turner said.

“The water was supposed to be 10 feet higher this time,” she said. “We were worried about the well-being of our residents.”

Instead of waiting and doing an emergency evacuation, St. Francis transferred its 78 residents within a six hour period of time on April 18 to three other locations to keep them safe.

One of those locations was New Hope Valley Assisted Living Home on Center Road in Saginaw Township. At the time, New Hope Valley only had eight residents and K. Rumi Shahzad, the facilities director, offered their help in housing some of the residents of St. Francis Home.

“We knew we were going to need a lot of volunteers,” Sister Turner said. “Nouvel (Catholic Central High School) football team and students charged over here when we needed them.”

Twenty-four teens from Nouvel and three students from Swan Valley High School along with numerous other volunteers and professional agencies came to help with the move.

Sister Turner said relay teams were quickly set up and helped to transport the residents' beds and furniture ahead them to New Hope Valley Assisted Living. Saginaw Geriatrics and Brittany Manor of Midland also each received 15 residents.

Seven residents were allowed to go home “overnight” with their family, but in the long run it was four days before permission was given by the State of Michigan for residents to return to St. Francis Home.

Sister Turner said that moving the 40 residents to New Hope Valley took nearly six hours and 24 large pizzas to accomplish the job.

“It was a huge volunteer effort that was filled with concern for the elderly,” she said. “The high school students insisted on staying the whole time even though we expected only two hours of service. Many of the volunteers were the residents’ own grandchildren.”

Together they set up a mini-St. Francis Home in New Hope Valley.

“It was a four-day long party,” Shahzad said.

“We pre-empted the flood,” Sister Turner said. “It was a statement of regard for the elders. We all need more time to move and adjust to issues as we age. The early warning from Chief Michael Cousins was a blessing. We are thankful to everyone that came to help and that sent support – such as Culver’s Restaurant which kept our residents and staff supplied with ice cream all those days. That was a great help.”

On April 22 all residents were safely back at St. Francis Home with no injuries, but many stories to tell.

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