Ongoing need for elderly residents of Morgan Manor after evacuation

How a community is coming together to help elderly residents of a housing complex following a storm and a flood. 

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

On the evening of May 26, a derecho blew across multiple states, including southern West Virginia. It knocked out power for a majority of residents in Greenbrier County, including Morgan Manor. 

A government-subsidized housing complex, Morgan Manor contains 32 apartments for senior citizens. Many of the seniors have physical limitations and few can provide for their own transportation. 

During the power outage, a four-inch high pressure water line inside the building ruptured. It flooded the three-story building, with floors one and two sustaining the most damage. 

“It burst in a vulnerable spot that was rusted,” explains Liz Pritt, who manages Morgan Manor for RLJ Management. “It’s been very stressful–mentally and physically.” 

Residents were evacuated from the building and taken to the Super 8 Motel in Lewisburg. While some decided to stay with family, 22 residents have been housed at the motel since the storm. 

RLJ Management

Workers clean out debris after a major water leak forced senior citizens to be evacuated from Morgan Manor in late May. Photo by RealWV.

RLJ Management runs Morgan Manor. They are based in Columbus, Ohio, under the leadership of Bill Harvey, the company’s president. In total, they operate 77 apartment complexes across West Virginia. They hire staff locally to manage each individual property. Reba Simmons is the lead manager for Morgan Manor and Liz Pritt serves in a staff role as well. 

While churches, individuals, and groups offered to cover the cost of housing the senior citizens at the Super 8 Motel, Greenbrier County Emergency Management officials informed RLJ that they were responsible for those costs according to state law and federal US Department of Agriculture rules (USDA regulates low-income senior housing). 

RLJ complied and paid for residents to be housed at the Super 8 through June 12. But Pritt expects the residents will need alternative housing for at least a few additional weeks. Whether RLJ will continue paying the housing bill remains to be seen. However, state law seems to indicate that a failure to provide housing to tenants with signed contracts would result in RLJ being unable to rent the same units for three months. County officials believe this provides additional incentive for RLJ to house the residents during repairs.

Crews repaired the water leak and removed affected drywall and ceiling tiles late last week. They began reinstalling new drywall on the third floor over the weekend. 

“Third floor folks can move back soon,” Pritt said. “Fifteen people can move back in (once the work passes inspection), and five of them are at the hotel currently.”  

Crews will continue working on the first and second floor, but damage there is more extensive and will require additional time. 

Pritt says the residents want to be assured RLJ will continue to pay for their housing until the building is ready for them to return. “The lack of reassurance that housing will be provided until the building becomes habitable is very stressful–mentally and physically.”

Pam Harders, left, and Liz Pritt, right, plan relief efforts for the elderly residents of Morgan Manor. Photo by RealWV.

While Pritt works for RLJ, whom the residents do not seek to trust, enjoys a close relationship with the residents. She calls the residents her “family.” And the residents appreciate her care. 

“Liz comes by and asks how we’re doing,” said Brenda Reynolds, who lives at another RLJ property and was set to move into Morgan Manor just as the water line break occurred. “She shares photos with us each day of the progress. That really means something to us.” 

Neighbors helping neighbors

Miranda Hufman, left, and Pam Harders, right are coordinating the community response for the unmet needs of Morgan Manor residents. Photo by RealWV.

When the storm hit the evening of May 26, Pam Harders was out in her yard cleaning up debris. “I came over to Morgan Manor to see if they needed help,” Harders remembered, “and ended up staying for several hours.”

Harders knew the residents would need help after their water line ruptured. While she’d never been involved in an emergency situation like this before, it was in her nature to lend a hand. 

“My neighbors needed help, and I liked to help,” she said. 

She soon met Miranda Huffman, a resident of nearby Fairlea. Her friend’s mother lives at Morgan Manor. “She asked if I could help with food and drinks when it first happened, and here we are a few weeks later,” she said with a smile. 

Pam and Miranda, who had never met, teamed up to coordinate the community response. Harders took the lead with unmet needs generally–laundry, transportation, etc, and Miranda took the lead on meals for the residents. 

A power outage during a derecho was immediately followed by a ruptured water line inside Morgan Manor, forcing 32 elderly residents to evacuate into a hotel as temporary housing. Community volunteers came together to help the senior citizens in the wake of the emergency. Photo by RealWV.

They deliver hot meals every day to residents at the Super 8. The meals come from a variety of sources–restaurants, individuals, churches, and civic groups. Governor Jim Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice, who live close by as well, provided meals from The Greenbrier for the senior citizens in the days after they were evacuated. 

“Thanks to the community for all their help. Jim’s Drive-In stepped up first thing. I can’t tell you everybody because there have been so many,” said Huffman. “People I’ve never met. The help has been wonderful.”

Huffman said the Morgan Manor residents are a vulnerable population, which brought a sense of urgency to the effort. “You have to help people who can’t help themselves. They had no way of helping themselves.”

Residents at Morgan Manor typically cook their own food in their rooms or in a communal kitchen on the third floor. Neither of those are possibilities at the hotel. 

Laundry quickly became an issue as well, but Harders started a system with help from two local churches. She coordinates a laundry pickup from the motel each Monday with a van from Rhema Christian Center. Then Lewisburg United Methodist Church pays for the clothes to be cleaned, before they’re returned to residents. 

How you can help

Locals provide meals for the residents of Morgan Manor while they’re evacuated, under the coordination of Miranda Huffman.

So far, more than $2,300 has been donated by community members for the unmet needs of the Morgan Manor residents. Edgewood Presbyterian Church, where Harders attends, is managing the donations. 

While some locals have tried to donate to Super 8, Harders and Huffman ask that all donations go through Edgewood, as they are managing donated funds. 

Huffman hopes they have enough funds to give each resident a small grocery gift card when they head back to their apartment, to replace the food they lost in the power outage. Volunteers also may be needed to help residents clean up their fridges/freezers when they move back. Meals will continue as long as the residents are housed in the Super 8, as they don’t have the means to prepare their own food. 

If you want to make a donation, please call Pam Harders at 304-646-6929. If you want to assist with meals, please call Miranda Huffman at 304-661-5171. 

Brenda Reynolds was supposed to move into Morgan Manor, but an evacuation has changed her plans. She’s now helping to assist her future fellow residents thanks to her experience with emergency response. Photo by RealWV.

Reynolds says that while it has been a difficult experience thus far, there is a silver lining. “Being together has made a world of difference.”

“I might be the neighbor who lives around the corner from Morgan Manor, but it’s the entire community who is stepping up as neighbor helping neighbor,” said Harders.


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