It was the calm after the storm. Weather forecasters had predicted a storm for the night of Tuesday, May 16. What could not be predicted was that the high winds would fell a tree which, in turn, struck the Hiawatha group home, causing extensive damage. “Everyone is okay, thank goodness,” said Paul Ronollo, Residential Services Director. Shaleice Jenkins, Senior Manager at the home acknowledges how terrific everyone has been, both consumers and staff. Yet, “It was scary,” said Kashona Harrison, one of the Direct-Support Professionals, who was there at the time. Felicia T., one the residents, echoed that sentiment: “It was scary…. The tree crashed.”
Tending to the needs and well-being of the residents was the primary challenge. One of the first to reach out was Audrey Billie, who drove over to Hiawatha and take them Beverwyck, where she is Manager. Everyone there—Audrey, her staff, and the ladies—welcomed the Hiawatha residents. They prepared a hearty family-style dinner and provided temporary shelter until other accommodations could be found. Kashona said the nights at Beverwyck were fun. “The Hiawatha residents enjoyed being with the ladies there,” added Shaleice. She added that the experience was a true example of everyone working together and team members putting the health and safety of the consumers first.
Hiawatha staff returned to their home that night to collect the residents’ medications everything to ensure the clients would be as comfortable as possible, as well as all things necessary for the business side of the group home to run efficiently, such as medical logs. Then, Shaleice called single hotel in Parsippany and the surrounding area. “All hotels were booked due to the many power outages and flooding of the storm that day,” she said. She finally was able to book the last two rooms available at a hotel. “Audrey assisted with transport of ladies and all belongings that night,” said Shaleice. The following day, “Overnight staff came in early to assist and packed up everything the next day to move to the new hotel closer to the home.” For Shaleice, however, the search continued, until she found a location more suitable for an extended stay, one with separate bedrooms and a kitchenette.
“Through it all the staff was there to reassure the [the Hiawatha residents] and communicated that everything was going to be okay through their own calm demeanor,” said Shaleice. “I mean there were no complaints from the staff at all. They were making due with whatever situation thrown their way.” Everybody has been on the same page, added Sha’de Norman, Direct-Support Professional at Hiawatha.
In the end, said Paul, “The ladies look forward to returning to their home as soon as they can.” Added Shaleice, “It really could have been terrible, but everyone has come together and is making the best of a bad situation.”
Shaleice Jenkins gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance give a special thanks to Audrey Billie and the Beverwyck staff, along with her staff at Hiawatha: Kashona Harrison, Sha’de Norman, Agnes Owolabi, Ce’arra Gaines, Elaine Burks, Josephine Nellums-Williams, Alice Patterson, Nefertiti Winstead, and Oyindamola Bakare.