Lodi retirement home wel­comes evac­uees from Santa Rosa

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Front Page - By John Bays

Evac­uees from the wild­fire threat­en­ing Santa Rosa have found a place to stay, at least tem­po­rar­ily, in a retirement home and mo­tel in Lodi.

Gen­eral Man­ager Michael Par­ros of the Vine­yard Com­mons Retirement Com­mu­nity in Santa Rosa re­ceived word that the power had gone out at the build­ing on Sun­day night, ar­riv­ing to find fire­fight­ers al­ready bat­tling flames in the area.

“When I got a call say­ing that the power had gone out, there were al­ready three en­gines fight­ing the fire when I got there, spray­ing the roof to keep em­bers from burn­ing the build­ing,” Par­ros said.

Par­ros ar­rived at ap­prox­i­mately 10 p.m. on Sun­day, and soon be­gan pre­par­ing to evac­u­ate the retirement home’s res­i­dents and staff, many of whom left with lit­tle more than the clothes on their backs.

Three city buses were used to evac­u­ate the res­i­dents and staff, with some leav­ing late that night and oth­ers de­part­ing on Mon­day morn­ing.

“In my role there as GM, I was re­ally cog­nizant about get­ting ev­ery­one out safely and on time,” Par­ros said.

Par­ros left with the last bus at ap­prox­i­mately 8:30 a.m., and was trans­ported to an emer­gency shel­ter at Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa along with three other staff mem­bers and 25 res­i­dents such as Al­lan Stern. Although Vine­yard Com­mons only suf­fered mi­nor dam­age, Stern said, a nearby ho­tel and res­tau­rant were not as for­tu­nate.

“As we drove away, less than a quar­ter of a mile away a Hil­ton Ho­tel was 90 per­cent gone. There were a few beams and roar­ing flames, and the Red Barn res­tau­rant un­der­neath the ho­tel was com­pletely gone. There was noth­ing there to sug­gest that it was ever there,” Stern said.

Stern and the other res­i­dents ar­rived at the high school to find a buf­fet of do­nated snacks, bev­er­ages and food in one of the gym­na­si­ums, and a group of vol­un­teers set­ting up cots in the other. Be­sides the food and ac­com­mo­da­tions, a med­i­cal cor­ner was also set up in one of the gyms with doc­tors, nurses and Emer­gency Med­i­cal Tech­ni­cians avail­able to ad­dress any of the evac­uees med­i­cal con­cerns.

“They did an ex­cel­lent job, we didn’t feel rushed or pushed around. The vol­un­teers were ex­cel­lent, they came around with food, blan­kets, pil­lows, water, if we were awake they asked if we were OK or if we needed any­thing. I’ve been do­ing plan­ning for years and to see what they did was mirac­u­lous,” Stern said.

The Vine­yard Com­mons res­i­dents and staff were then taken to The Vin­tage Retirement Com­mu­nity in Lodi on Tues­day, ar­riv­ing at ap­prox­i­mately 3 p.m., ac­cord­ing to Gen­eral Man­ager Flora Jack­son. As both Vine­yard Com­mons and The Vin­tage are a part of Hol­i­day Retirement, Jack­son said, the Santa Rosa evac­uees were wel­comed with open arms, sleep­ing in the Mo­tel 6 on South Chero­kee Lane and tak­ing their meals and spend­ing their days at The Vin­tage.

“One of the most im­por­tant things to us at Hol­i­day is that we keep our res­i­dents safe and happy. Even af­ter hav­ing gone through such a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence, they were happy to come here, have a good meal and sleep in a real bed,” Jack­son said.

Be­sides the res­i­dents and staff at The Vin­tage mak­ing their guests feel wel­come, the Sal­va­tion Army also did their part to help re­place some of the evac­uees’ lost items. A mar­ried cou­ple liv­ing at The Vin­tage con­tacted the Sal­va­tion Army, who sent a bus and a van on Wed­nes­day to take each evac­uee to Walmart with a $100 voucher each to pur­chase clothes, toi­letries and other es­sen­tials, ac­cord­ing to Jack­son.

Vine­yard Com­mons also brought along their chef, who served up home­made bear claws and peanut brit­tle to thank The Vin­tage’s res­i­dents and staff for their hos­pi­tal­ity. Stern also ex­pressed deep grat­i­tude to­ward his new neigh­bors, keep­ing an op­ti­mistic out­look on his sit­u­a­tion.

“They’ve been re­ally good here, there’s ex­cel­lent ser­vice, the food is good, they took care of our needs. Even though it’s a dis­as­ter, we’ve had a re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence,” Stern said.

The evac­uees will stay at the Mo­tel 6 un­til Satur­day, when the mo­tel will need the rooms for the up­com­ing Ok­to­ber­fest this week­end. At that point, ap­prox­i­mately 16 evac­uees from Santa Rosa will stay at The Vin­tage, while oth­ers will go to Bay Park Retirement Com­mu­nity in Pi­nole, an­other Hol­i­day Retirement af­fil­i­ate.

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