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Texas Living Magazine Honors Conroe Seniors

Hurricane Harvey did not consider age as it brought its
flood waters throughout the Houston area, as both young
and old scrambled as best they could to find a safe place to
stay. Many seniors, some with slow gaits, aches and pains, and
confused thoughts, were forced to leave their flooded homes,
seeking shelter. Conroe’s Carriage Inn Retirement Community,
understanding that its residents and their families might have
a unique set of struggles should the floodwaters cross their
threshold, “was prepared to face the worst and open their doors
to those in need,” said Marketing Director Terri Lisenbe.
When it comes to preparing 100 resident retirees for a
disaster, there is much to consider. “We made certain that we
communicated with each resident and their family members
and encouraged a list of supplies,” explained Lisenbe, a list
that encouraged stocking up on vital medications. “We also
made sure that we had an abundant supply of food, water,
batteries, emergency lighting, as well as staff assignments and
an emergency plan in action.”
“I came in on Monday, August 28, and that is when they
let the water out of Lake Conroe Dam,” Lisenbe relates. “I
was evacuated from my house and actually spent the night at
Carriage Inn. We knew in our hearts that homes not in risk
were now more than liking going to be effected.” Fortunately,
their facility never lost power, and therefore residents were not
forced to evacuate. They became a temporary safe haven for
many residents’ families who were displaced or flooded, all the
while listening to the sounds of helicopters and watching boats
make their way to those in distress. By Wednesday, August 30,
Terri said, “We knew that we had gotten through the worst.”
“Once the hurricane ended, the work began in helping new
residents who had lost everything to relocate and begin building
their lives again,” said Lisenbe. Each new resident brought their
own story of disaster and hope, some of which are shared here.
Eighty-seven-year-old Joan Daniel, a former accountant,
was a resident on the second floor of a senior living community
in Spring when water flooded her apartment.
“The power went off, and it was completely dark,” Daniel
lamented. “Men came with lanterns, and we were put on boats.
From there, they put us on a bus, and we were taken to another
senior living community in The Woodlands. I have never seen
anything like it in my life.”
She added that she left with only the clothes on her back and
that all of her belongings remained in her former apartment.
CINDY & KEITH KERN | Ages 85 & 86
Cindy and Keith Kern spent their adult lives as Houstonians.
Keith worked as a senior financial executive for a Houstonbased
national energy company. Cindy began her career as a
teacher, for five full-time years, before getting married and
leaving to raise her two children while still supporting the local
education system through substitute teaching.
The Kerns were visiting North Carolina when Harvey hit,
and were unable to prevent the loss of their River Plantation
home of 45 years, which quickly flooded with nine inches of
water inside. They were also unable to return home to Texas at
the time, as the storm stood in their way.
“A neighbor called and said that our precinct constable
came by and said that it [flood] was going to be worse than
the flood in 1994,” the Kerns shared. “No one could get into
the house the next day to determine the extent of damage.”
Once they were able to return, however, “We had no beds and
tried living upstairs for a week, which was not possible. All the
furniture on the first floor was junked, but we salvaged our
seeking safety at conroe’s Carriage inn WRITTEN BY: MINNIE PAYNE | PHOTOS COURTESY OF: TERRI LISENBE
upstairs furniture. We were overwhelmed with volunteers and
very grateful for them.”
Cindy, like many others affected when the city released the
dams, felt angry that releasing the waters caused such extensive
destruction of their neighborhood.
Keith says that he went online in search of retirement
homes and called Carriage Inn, committing to a lease in less
than an hour after he completed a tour of the premises. Lisenbe
confirmed that when the Kerns arrived, they were in need of
furniture and an immediate place to live.
Ages 84 & 80
Janet Landry, 84, and Bobbie Zinnecker, 80, were also River
Plantation residents. After their children finished college and
were off on their own, the two women decided to become
housemates for economic and financial reasons. However,
when Harvey hit, their shared home ended up a total loss with
ten feet of water in their home.
Many years ago, Landry worked with payroll for Franklin Life
Insurance Company in Houston. In 1973, she and her husband
moved to River Plantation in Conroe from Beaumont. Twentyone
years later in 1994, the couple endured a bad flood; with the
help of neighbors and friends, they managed to salvage some
things back then. But Harvey’s devastation would far surpass
what she previously experienced. “This time, I lost everything,
including my clothing,” Landry said in the immediate aftermath
of the flooding.
Zinnecker, a school teacher for 26 years, said that the two
women were not afraid because they had insurance. They had
even previously discussed moving to a retirement facility. “I’m
glad Bobbie was there,” Landry commented. “She saved all her
Initially, Landry and Zinnecker stayed with good friends
before temporarily moving to Landry’s daughter’s house in
Houston. Landry’s two sons, along with many volunteers
worked to gut the home and get in touch with someone about
potentially buying it. Meanwhile, Lisenbe shared that the two
women along with their children worked as a team to create a
beautiful Carriage Inn apartment for the ladies.
ED & SHIRLEY WIGGINS | Ages 84 & 85
Ed and Shirley Wigginses were in a position to move out
of their River Plantation residence before the flood hit. Ed,
a current minister, and Shirley, a retired elementary school
teacher, had lived in their house fifteen years before the
hurricane flooded it with six feet of water.
“We went to our son’s house, and he has helped,” Ed shared,
in the days shortly following the disaster. “I have been back
once and looked at the house; Shirley has not been back. We
knew that it was time to get out, so we left. Members of our
church came and cleaned everything out, and they are having
the house sprayed and sanitized, getting it ready to be re-built.”
The Wigginses were considering going to a retirement home
when Hurricane Harvey hit, an event that finalized the decision
for them. “Our children were doing too much, and we wanted
to be independent. Our testimony is different, in that we see a
very positive thing. I look at it as if I am entering a new phase
of my ministry,” Ed explained.
Lisenbe said that the Wigginses came to Carriage Inn the
Tuesday after the flood, the first of the evacuees. “I was with
them when they heard the news that they lost everything when
the river went through their house. I watched them and saw
all. I said ‘God is with us and we are going forward.’ We began
preparing their apartment immediately, and they were able to
move in by noon on Friday.”
Carriage Inn, Conroe, and RCM Senior Living Management
Group made every effort to ensure the safety and wellbeing
of its 90 residents before the flood ravished the Houston area,
and will do the same going forward for the new residents post-
Harvey. Executive Director Rosetta Day, Marketing Director
Terri Lisenbe, and Executive Chef Tony Martinez worked in
shifts, along with supporting staff, during the storm so that there
would be someone to provide continual care for the residents.
“The thing that we are most concerned about are the
residents and taking care of them,” confirmed Lisenbe.
42 | FEBRUARY 2018