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Volunteers help elderly go home

BY PJ HELLER | DEL CITY, OK | May 15, 1999

DEL CITY, OK (May 15, 1999) - Elderly and frail residents living at the

Sweetbriar Nursing Home, forced to evacuate before tornadoes wreaked havoc

in the area, returned home this week, thanks in large part to the efforts

of Catholic Charities.

"Catholic Charities really stretched themselves to help us out," said Larry

Cain, district director for Peak Medical, owners of the nursing home.

"I know they've been involved in lots of other things that have gone along

with this disaster," he added, "but they made themselves available to help

us and our 112 residents."

It was just the latest story in a myriad of reports about people and

agencies going out of their way to help others affected by the twisters.

The storm killed at least 44 people; the latest fatality was reported

Thursday after the body of a 26-year-old woman was found by her friends.

Tram Bui was the last missing victim of the storm, authorities said.

While thousands of Oklahomans still remain out of their homes, Sweetbriar

residents were able to return to their quarters. The last group arrived

Thursday.

The nursing home suffered an estimated $300,000 damage, mostly to a

recently installed roof, Cain said. The facility may have escaped more

extensive damage -- surrounding homes were flattened by the May 3 twisters --

because it is situated in a low lying area, he noted.

"All around us is total destruction," Cain said.

As workmen were pulling off roof shingles, four busloads of residents

pulled into the parking lot. Some had to be carried off the buses by

fire-rescue personnel on the scene to help. Others were rolled in their

wheelchairs into the nursing home. Still others, helped by staff and

volunteers, slowly shuffled into the building.

Once inside, they were greeted by personnel from Catholic Charities, who

had given up their day off to assist at the nursing home.

In addition to presenting returning residents with gift bags containing

hand and body lotions and other small items, they also provided residents

with a much-needed ear to listen to their stories about the storm.

"They (residents) seem elated, but most of all they want to tell their

stories," said Mary Diane Steltenkamp, a registered nurse and parish nurse

with Catholic Charities.

She said her organization was contacted Monday by Cain asking for

assistance in returning the residents to the home.

The residents had been evacuated to other nursing homes with help from the

National Guard and local fire-rescue personnel.

"The residents wanted to come back home," Cain said. "Although they were in

nice accommodations and nice surroundings, this is still their home.

They're just like everyone else. They want to be at their home."

Steltenkamp, working with several different agencies including the

Salvation Army, was able to arrange transportation for the residents. She

said she also was able to arrange for limos and for nurses to ride with the

residents back to the home.

Posted May 15, 1999


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