September 20, 2013
After flooding —
Walden Place residents returning
Senior living center continues cleanup as displaced tenants start moving back
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Walden Place residents Dick Welch and Pat Stupke chat in a hallway Thursday afternoon. Residents of the facility have been returning to their apartments after being evacuated during a flood in August.
CORTLANDVILLE — The Walden Place Senior Living Community sustained extensive damage Aug. 8, as floodwaters permeated the entirety of the complex, necessitating the replacement of flooring, cabinets, furniture and even sections of wall that were soaked with water.
Though finishing construction touches continue in two of Walden Place’s four wings, Cedar Wing and the facility’s memory care wing are open to residents once again.
Dick Welch, a 72-year-old resident of Walden Place, moved back in around noon Thursday. Welch, who has lived in the Cortland area for 35 years, said that, for him, August’s floods were a first.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” remembered Welch. “We were just deluged with water, and it was so fast.”
Welch and his fellow residents left the facility when the water was about ankle-deep, going first to the Cortlandville Fire Department, then to the County Office Building, where they were provided with cots, and then finally to the Holiday Inn Express for the night.
Welch spent the next six weeks at the Sterling House in Ithaca, where he shared a room with a full-time resident.
“Other than not being in my own room, really the people at Sterling were very good to us,” said Welch. “We got some first-class treatment.”
In addition to living with family members, Walden Place residents spent the intervening six weeks in a variety of local assisted living facilities.
Brewster House in Homer had as many as 17 residents at one point, while Bellevue Manor in Syracuse, Cortland Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and Groton Skilled Nursing Home all took in Walden Place residents among many others.
Now that Walden Place is up and running again, Welch said that he is happy to be home.
“I’m very glad to be back,” said Welch, who was able to see some good come out of the flooding. “It’s just beautiful in here, all new paint and carpeting. It’s turned out pretty well.”
Walden Place Executive Director Carrie Rockefeller said that the most trying part of the whole six-week process has been “the emotion attached with the residents being displaced.”
“You can’t just reopen a building,” said Rockefeller, who usually lives in Endicott, but has been staying in Cortland to oversee the facility’s remediation. “You have to make sure you have staffing, that all the food requirements are met, there are activities for the residents and that the state certifications are in.”
Though the damages sustained by Walden Place were covered by its insurance policy, that doesn’t mean the cleanup has been easy.
“People think that (carpets) can be replaced overnight,” Rockefeller said. “But they just can’t.”
Rockefeller said that although the cleanup efforts have been trying, the most important thing is making sure that her residents feel comfortable after returning.
“The residents realize that we aren’t just staff,” Rockefeller said. “They come in and say, ‘I’m home.’ We couldn’t open those doors quick enough.”
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