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The Call of Duty: Waco Community Answers Call of Seniors Trying to Escape Hurricane Ike

Oct. 30, 2008

Waco Tribune Herald

As Hurricane Ike rolled into the Gulf of Mexico earlier this fall, many people up and down the coast secured their homes and property and prepared to head inland to ride out the storm. But, not everyone along the gulf coast was able to pack up and go. The sick and the elderly living in nursing homes, some of them far away from their families, had to rely on the organizational skills of their caregivers -- and the goodwill of people in other cities who would take them in.

One local care facility answered the call of 17 senior citizens from Port Arthur, all suffering dementia-related illnesses. Pam McGrew, executive director of Wesley Wood Alzheimer's Care Center, was moved by all she and her staff experienced during that time and felt compelled to let Waco know what a difference a community can make in the lives of people.

* * *

Dear Waco,

Waco Today

What comes to mind when you think of Hurricane Ike? Loss? Devastation? Overload?

What comes to my mind is the incredible experience that occurred here in Waco, during a time when everyone could have been worried about themselves and their own families. The employees of Wesley Woods, along with others in the community, stepped up and made this time as calm and pleasant as possible for the evacuees that were transported here to live for an indefinite period of time. Wesley Woods Alzheimer's Care Center admitted 17 residents with dementia related diseases from Port Arthur. The remaining residents were sent to other local facilities, as well as places in Ft. Worth and Dallas.

Admission could not have run any smoother. Staff responded to these new residents with love and tenderness and tried to make this transition as easy as possible. Family members of Wesley Woods donated clothes and money to help the evacuees that came only with their medications and some paperwork. One family member's Sunday School class donated $200, while Midway ISD stepped up to the plate and donated $500 to help out with the needs of these new residents. The Hewitt Goodwill donated items for this worthy cause as well. Providence Hospice sent over extra staff to assist with the meals, so no one would have to wait to be fed.

Not only were the physical needs met during this hurried transition, but the emotional and spiritual needs were met, as well, with assistance from the Baylor School of Social Work who sent Dr. Ellor, Helen Harris and professional students out to visit with the evacuees and provide comfort and support during this time. Whether it was reading a book or holding a hand, the social workers provided another safe place for the evacuees to turn during this time.

The staff at Wesley Woods pulled it together by working extra shifts, withholding their own needs and putting the needs of the current residents, as well as the new (evacuee) residents, first. This is our mission. Nurse Practitioner, Jan Ellor, went above and beyond the call of duty to see that the proper medical attention was given to each evacuee. The Family Practice Center also assigned residents to each evacuee to ensure their medical needs were met.

We are blessed in Waco, Texas. We have a great community that comes together and shows love and support to those in need. I am proud of all of the efforts during this time and wanted to share this story with all of you, so you can be proud of our town, too.

Reprinted with permission