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Winter Storm Alfred left much of Connecticut covered with snow and without power. Yet, the storm's aftermath had a surprising result at Duncaster in Bloomfield, CT: a stronger sense of community.
The community's 2 generators were up and running as soon as the storm hit. That meant the lights stayed on, the heat kept running and the water was still flowing in the community's common areas. It also meant that Duncaster became a refuge for resident's and staff members' children, grandchildren and even pets.
After the storm, Duncaster became a place where people could charge their cell phones, take a warm shower, and enjoy a hot meal with their friends, family and co-workers. In fact, the Duncaster dining space and selection was expanded to include a full hot breakfast every morning in several rooms near their dining room.
That dining room was also the stage for a surprise suppertime singing performance from Playhouse on Park, a local theater company. The show was a "thank you" to Duncaster, where several performers were living as the region recovered from the storm.
But it also went beyond meals. Resident Peter Libassi said that the generators in the common areas generated more than electricity. "You go down the hallway," Libassi noted, "and see kids doing homework on laptops; resident’s playing cards and doing puzzles together; dogs with their owners enjoying the attention and people returning from the fitness center with wet hair. It’s truly the rebirth of congeniality.”
According to CEO Michael O'Brien, Duncaster's staff members were the "unsung heroes" of this community building effort. "Despite all they've been challenged with in their own homes, virtually none of them missed a day of work,” he said.
Take Kyle, a kitchen utility worker. Kyle decided that he would make sure the kitchen was up and running the Sunday morning after the storm. So, he drove through the conditions to pick up 3 other staff members to help him start preparing breakfast at 6 a.m.
"The staff here has kept everything going that needs to be working despite what they’ve got to deal with in their own homes. We won’t forget that," Labassi said. "Residents always contribute to an annual Thanksgiving Fund for members of the Duncaster staff. We were well into it when the storm hit. But we’ve sent another letter to residents that asks that they think about the efforts of the staff during the storm and give additional contributions for the wonderful care they've give us under such great stress.”
Duncaster was not the only Connecticut member that came together with its community in the face of this storm. In nearby Hartford, Hebrew Health Care launched a social media campaign to get Connecticut Light & Power to restore their electricity after 8 days with no power. And, Masonicare at Newtown opened up their facilities to community members who anything from electricity for medical devices to hot showers.
Whatever the situation, these communities action remind us the power of community over tragedy in our member organizations.