Sister Communities, National Guard, and More Help in Tornado Recovery

Sister Communities, National Guard, and More Help in Tornado Recovery

Amber Patton, ED, CDAL, CDP
Senior Executive Director
The Bungalows at Mayfield
Phoenix Senior Living

We prepare for sickness, staffing shortages, natural disasters, and fires. We compile vulnerability assessments, emergency preparedness plans, and lists upon lists, never imagining that we would ever utilize them.

In our small 42-apartment community in Mayfield, Ky., all our preparedness was put to the test, when four tornadoes came through our small town, two touching down just feet from our community. All four were rated EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita scale—meaning “devastating damage.” The scale only goes to EF5.

The tornadoes missed our community, but the damage to our town was so horrific that it warranted an evacuation. Our seniors were without water and power for 11 days.

We are thankful that a Phoenix Senior Living sister community is just 20 miles from us and has the space to accommodate our residents. Some of our residents chose to stay with loved ones who weren’t affected by the tornadoes, but most decided to evacuate.

With flashlights in hand, we packed their belongings and headed to our sister community, The Neighborhood at Paducah, an assisted living and memory care community in Paducah, Ky.

The aftereffects linger

The emotional toll the tornadoes and evacuation took on our associates, residents, and families lingers. It seems that while we can prepare for people’s physical needs, their mental and emotional needs are sometimes difficult to meet.

I’ve seen people affected so differently by this disaster. Some associates and residents worried for days about the safety of their family members whom they were unable to reach. Some associates lost their homes and vehicles. Some residents mourn the loss of a town they’ve known and loved for more than 100 years.

We could anticipate, but not fully understand, the scope of the worry and stress until we were in the middle of it. But the overwhelming support from so many people drowned out the anxiety and fear and gave us a sense of hope.

We utilized resources from a local disaster preparedness coalition and the National Guard. Local skilled nursing facilities donated beds, and churches donated volunteers, furniture, and food. We saw an outpouring of support from the people of Mayfield and Paducah.

“Family” support

Even though we were able to provide safety, our residents received so much encouragement, companionship, and assistance from the community at large.

The Neighborhood at Paducah and The Bungalows at Mayfield communities are new to Phoenix Senior Living; Phoenix started to manage them in September 2021. Throughout learning new policies and new computer systems and understanding the new leadership and dynamics within the company’s culture, one fantastic thing that these tornadoes taught us about the company is that we are all family.

Phoenix took care of us and showed up when we were in need. Several communities reached out. One in Alabama sent all our residents Christmas cards. Another, in Georgia, sent plastic totes and work gloves so tornado victims could dig through rubble and search for possessions. Operations and care associates traveled from North and South Carolina to do whatever was needed.

In 2020, Phoenix Senior Living created The Phoenix Rising Fund, a non-profit 501c3 that assists associates in their times of disaster or hardship. After all, Phoenix Senior Living is a company of people serving people, which means we help our associates.

Our CEO, Jesse Marinko, called me personally to check on us and offer any assistance. We utilized The Phoenix Rising Fund to assist several associates who experienced loss and hardship.

So much kindness shown

While we did a pretty good job of being prepared for these tornadoes, nothing could have prepared us for the kindness shown to our community. We were overwhelmed with assistance by local churches, skilled facilities, volunteers, the National Guard, and especially the new family we’ve joined, Phoenix Senior Living.

We are so appreciative of everyone who helped us through this trying time. While it will take our town years to rebuild, we extend the same kindness to others shown to us.

Our associates and residents have donated food, clothing, funds, and time to the local homeless shelters, food banks, and other humanitarian efforts. We hope to help others who are still living the nightmare brought on by this natural disaster.

For more information on The Phoenix Rising Fund or to donate to this charitable organization, please visit