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Blizzard, be gone!

Staff worked around the clock in January to keep everyone at Maris Grove safe and warm

Created date

April 12th, 2016
Maris Grove’s snow crew salted and plowed the roadways during the blizzard this past January.

Maris Grove’s snow crew salted and plowed the roadways during the blizzard this past January.

Spring is in the air, but Philadelphia’s January blizzard won’t soon be forgotten.

The snow began Friday, Jan. 22. When it ended on Sunday, Maris Grove, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Delaware County, Pa., was blanketed under 22 inches of the white stuff. 

Its 1,400 residents, however, went about their weekend activities as usual. 

Winter wonderland

From the safety and warmth of their homes at Maris Grove, residents had front-row seats to the blizzard while the grounds crew tackled the snow.

The power stayed on throughout, and the maintenance and security teams were in place. 

“Residents had a great time,” says Executive Director Maureen Heckler. “They played games and watched Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in Charade. Some of them hosted snow parties in their homes.” 

She knows that firsthand because she as well as Associate Executive Director Anne Andersen, Director of Sales Kathy McCrossin, and other executive staff stayed in local hotels and campus model apartments during the blizzard. 

Medical Director Joel Posner, M.D., also slept on campus and made a number of house calls during the weekend.  

Staff from housekeeping, transportation, maintenance, security, and the front desk stayed over, too. 

The comanager of the campus convenience store, for example, kept the store open all day Saturday and provided much-appreciated hot coffee. 

Dining Services was short-staffed because of the blizzard, so other employees pitched in at campus restaurants to serve residents hot, buffet-style meals. 

Such staff response is standard practice at Maris Grove during threatening weather events. “We assured residents that all was in order,” Heckler says. 

In the eye of the storm

Maris Grove’s snow crew shouldered a nearly impossible job.

“We had never seen this much snow all at once, and the white-out conditions throughout the storm made it difficult to keep the roads open,” says General Services Director Matt Miller. “The snow crew would plow the road, but when they turned around it looked as if they hadn’t done anything. That happened over and over again.”

Expanded by five general services employees, the seven-person crew came in at 10 p.m. Friday and began clearing, says Grounds Supervisor Randy Waddell. 

“The snow started at a moderate rate that night,” he says, “but by Saturday afternoon, the wind was howling at 35–45 mph with even higher gusts. It was snowing heavily and coming in sideways. We couldn’t keep up with it.”

The crew had taken some meal breaks, but by Saturday evening the storm’s ferocity gave them no choice but to come in for five hours of sleep. 

Waddell’s exhausted crew sacked out on his office floor. “After all that time battling the snow, several thick heavy winter coats underneath you is really not all that bad,” he says.

The snow officially ended at 11:30 Saturday night, but the crew continued to clear until mid-afternoon on Sunday. 

Miller says it took until Thursday to re-open parking areas that were covered under two feet of snow.

He applauds all Maris Grove employees for their selfless efforts during the blizzard. “The team here was so supportive,” he says. “Everyone pitched in for everyone else and was always ready to lend a hand.”

That attitude exists every day across the Maris Grove community.