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Community Amongst Staff

Posted: January 27, 2014

This weekend was one of those not-so-great ones.  On Saturday morning a pipe burst on the 2nd floor of Ulin House, causing flooding in some apartments and in many of our common areas.  JCHE's maintenance team sprung into place and began the clean up.  I got some text messages and ultimately some phone calls reporting on progress, and was reassured that things were under control.

Then in early afternoon a 2nd pipe burst on the 8th floor, this time with such ferocity that we had indoor rain storms on all the floors below—reaching as far as the basement.  Once again, our maintenance staff took immediate safety precautions, turning off electricity, water and elevators.  Obviously, not ideal in a building filled with 70, 80 and 90 year olds.

Here’s the silver lining—JCHE staff from all departments rallied in response. We quickly assembled to launch a massive clean-up and take-care-of-people effort. We knocked on every apartment door to explain what was going on, ask if they needed any help and offer reassurance that we were working steadily to fix the situation.  After we restored heat and water, we were able to restore electricity to all but 88 of the apartments.  We re-visited each of those apartments. Explaining that it would likely be a couple of days before power came back, we encouraged people to stay with relatives or let us provide hotel placement. For those who chose to remain in the building, we went back with flashlights and dinner.

We took many other steps and have continued to remediate, but what I want to note is the amazing camaraderie and “can do” spirit exhibited by our team.  Many of our staff worked from 9 a.m. Saturday morning just about straight through to Sunday night at 10 p.m. (and are working still!) without break or complaint.  Despite being exhausted, they treated every tenant with respect, compassion, patience and kindness.  I did not hear even once, “let someone else do that” but rather heard “I got it, no problem” maybe 1000 times.  And I received emails and texts from 12 additional staff members offering to come in if we needed extra hands.  One board member even showed up this morning, ready to be assigned to any task we chose.

We talk a lot about aging in community and surely this case illustrated the value of it—had this been a standard apartment building, there’s no way the staff would have taken such amazing care of each tenant.  But it also demonstrated how much the staff is itself a community—eager to help each other out and be mutually supportive and respectful.  More than a thin silver lining…………..

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