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Our Residents

Residents Get a Nasty Taste of Winter

Residents Get a Nasty Taste of Winter

Residents get a nasty taste of winter

Residents at Forest Park Manor gather for lunch and warmth in the Community Room during the power outage from the late October snow storm.

There’s cold, and then there’s cold. And residents at six Springfield Housing Authority developments got a bitter dose of freezing following the unusual Oct. 29 storm that dumped about eight inches of soggy, heavy snow onto the city. Crashing trees and limbs brought down many power lines, blacking out more than half of the city.

At Forest Park Manor, where power was out the entire week, elderly and disabled residents huddled together in the Community Room by day, united in their struggle to stay warm and find a good meal. Their stories, told with humor and grace, shared common threads of multiple layers of clothing and blankets, and early bedtimes.

“Like a million other people up here at ‘the X,’ we’re suffering. We’re freezing,” said 91-year-old Millie Dunbar, a lifelong city resident who has lived at Forest Park Manor the past seven years. “I’m staying at the shelter tonight,” she said, referring to the temporary overnight facility set up at Central High School to keep people warm during the subfreezing nights that followed the storm.

Many city residents who were without power took advantage of the relief. The area was declared a federal disaster in the wake of the storm. Dunbar said she loves the Manor, and appreciated the camaraderie she finds in the Community Room, especially in times of distress like this one. “It’s a great place here. They take good care of us,” she said. Forest Park was in good company. By the end of the week, that site and Carpe Diem, Indian Orchard Manor, Morris School I and II, Moxon, and part of Duggan remained without power. Of the 350 units without power, 300 were elderly and disabled tenants, making the need for heat urgent in many cases.

With help from the American Red Cross of Springfield, Great Springfield Senior Services and the city Department of Elderly Affairs, the SHA set up temporary warming centers at Sullivan, Jennie Lane Apartments, Forest Park Manor and Morris School II Apartments, with generators providing heat. They also provided emergency meals at the warming centers. SHA staff pitched in, working and volunteering to help where needed.

Residents get a nasty taste of winter

From Left to Right – Laurie Lappie, maintenance staff, Candra Cripps, resident service coordinator, and Deanna Potter of MedStrive lend a hand to help keep elderly residents at Forest Park Manor warm and comfortable.

At Forest Park, SHA Resident Service Coordinator Candra Cripps helped keep residents comfortable and safe, and helped to organize and serve the daily lunches. She was joined by Laurie Lappie of maintenance, and on one day, Deanna Potter, a MedStrive representative who had come by to speak with residents about health benefits. “We’ve had food here every day. We’re offering blankets, and we’re doing whatever we can,” said Cripps.

Added Lappie, “I’m here because I care about these people. They’re my family.” Indeed, resident Virginia Diaz said that while she was very cold at night, she was glad to have the Community Room to visit by day. “We come every day,” she said. “They’re so good to us here. It’s a very nice place.”

Residents spoke of piling on clothing and blankets at night, and going to bed at dark so as to sleep the coldest hours away. “I’ve got plenty to eat. It’s the cold that’s a killer,” said 77-year-old Roger Sheldon.

SHA Executive Director William H. Abrashkin said authority employees and those from the outside agencies have worked to provide food, blankets and other necessities. “Natural disasters, particularly when combined with prolonged power outages, put everyone affected at risk,” Abrashkin said. “The people for whom the SHA is responsible — elderly, disabled, low-income — are particularly vulnerable in times of crisis. Working with the City of Springfield and other partners in the community, the staff of the Springfield Housing Authority once again have gone the extra mile, clearing debris, making door-to-door wellness checks, providing food and warming centers, and marshaling all available resources to help our residents. The SHA is fortunate to have so many dedicated and experienced staff to help our residents through this difficult time, and let us all hope and pray that power is restored to all areas of our City as soon as possible,” he said.

4647 days ago / Our Residents
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