Lexington senior facility sheltering elderly Virginians from Florence

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- It’s often some of the most vulnerable people who can’t escape a storm zone.

A photo from Hurricane Harvey last year showed elderly Texans calmly sitting in their nursing home as the water rose around them.

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A Lexington senior living community is helping east coast seniors avoid that.

On short notice Signature Healthcare’s Tanbark senior living community took in 61 seniors from a sister facility in Norfolk, Virginia.

About half the facility’s residents boarded two charter buses for a ten hour overnight journey to Lexington in an effort to avoid Hurricane Florence.

<kiara davidson, director of social services in norfolk: “Calling families and we’re like, ‘Hey, yeah, we’re going to Lexington, Kentucky.’ They’re like, ‘Kentucky, Kentucky?'” Kiara Davidson, Social Services Director in Virginia, said.

She is one of about 20 staff members who left their own families behind to travel with their residents.

She brought her ten-month-old son along. Family members two hours away from Lexington are caring for him.

She just spoke to her husband for the first time in two days Wednesday night. He is staying behind with the family’s dogs in Virginia.

“We were extremely nervous because we have no idea what to even expect,” Davidson said.

When the Virginians arrived, administrator Nikki Schilling and her team were there to welcome them.

“I think they’re all really eager to learn more about Kentucky. The first thing they said to me was, ‘The grass isn’t blue!'” Schilling said.

They’re learning about parts of the horse and Kentucky folk tales.

Schilling says it’s been almost like a vacation for the Virginians, but it’s certainly not easy to break from routine, particularly since many of them have dementia.

<whit stodgehill, lead regional spirituality director lou market: “When they came off that bus, they were agitated and anxious,” Whit Stodgehill, Lead Regional Spirituality Director for the Louisville Market, said.

She brought therapy dog Digsby to greet them.

“Let them pet the dog and pretty soon their mood started to ease up and they realized, ‘We’re going to be okay here,'” Stodgehill said.

Schilling says Kentucky residents are still getting the same care, but she had to order extra supplies and expand activities.

She says the community is helping. Jessamine County Emergency Management has been delivering cots and area restaurants plan on bringing in food for staff members.

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Veronica Jean Seltzer joins ABC 36 as Anchor/Reporter. On most weekdays, you will see her reporting the news. VJ hails from a small horse farm outside New York City and most recently comes from South Bend, Indiana where she reported for the CBS and Fox affiliates. VJ holds a Master of Science in Journalism degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University. Her passion for journalism runs deep. It began as she studied graffiti as an ancient form of communication in Athens, Greece. While a student journalist in Morocco, she learned her most important journalistic lesson: good stories are about people. VJ loves life in and around Lexington. She feels most at home among horses and a diverse community of fascinating people. She enjoys reporting during the week and on the weekend she strives to bring her neighbors the news that matters most to them. VJ enjoys going to neighborhood events, exploring, horseback riding, skiing, sailing, and good movies. Look for her out and about in the community! VJ invites you to reach out to her with story ideas or just to say hello! Find her on Facebook at Veronica Jean Seltzer ABC 36, tweet her @VJS_ABC36, or email her at VSeltzer@wtvq.com. She looks forward to hearing from you!