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Magnolia Gardens resident Anne Josey called Tully Park home for a week after a fire left the senior housing facility temporarily uninhabitable.

Firefighters from Westbury, Carle Place, Hicksville, East Meadow and Jericho responded to a fire at the Magnolia Gardens Senior Citizens residence on March 5. A 75-year-old female resident, whose second floor apartment went ablaze, succumbed to her injuries the following day at Nassau University Medical Center. The senior complex, which is located on Broadway and operated by the North Hempstead Housing Authority, reopened on March 11. As of press time, most residents had returned to their apartments.

More than 100 firefighters battled the blaze, which broke out at approximately 8 p.m. and took more than a half-hour to confine. According to Westbury 1st Assistant Chief George Perrin, the cause of the fire was still under investigation by the Nassau County Fire Marshal. It was, however, deemed an accident.

American Red Cross volunteer Daniel Ng and Carol Spear, RN assisted Magnolia Gardens residents.

As a result of the fire, the victim's apartment was destroyed while the lobby of the senior complex - located directly underneath, and other areas of the building received water and smoke damage. In addition, many apartment doors which were broken in an attempt to ensure residents were not trapped inside, had to be replaced. Throughout the week, employees of Local 7 Carpenter's Union volunteered their time to help install doors and replace locks. Carpeting and tiles throughout parts of the building must also be replaced.

Although the fire left Magnolia Gardens uninhabitable for almost a week, residents were provided with temporary housing facilities, first at the Park Avenue School and then at the Michael Tully Park Recreation Center in New Hyde Park while others chose to stay at motels or with friends or family members. North Hempstead Town provided residents with transportation to and from the shelter and Magnolia Gardens so that they could retrieve personal effects and medications while town employees volunteered time to put together beds purchased from IKEA for those residents who couldn't sleep on Red Cross cots. Supervisor Jon Kaiman stated that the town received a great deal of assistance and cooperation from Nassau County's Office of Social Services, Senior Services and Emergency Management as well as Unified New Cassel and the American Red Cross.

According to Thea Linscott, spokesperson for the American Red Cross - Nassau Chapter, approximately 25 seniors stayed at the shelter and that some 80 Red Cross volunteers were on hand throughout the week to provide 24-hour assistance as well as medical and nursing care. In addition, the Red Cross provided residents with meals and comfort kits, which included toiletries.

"There were a lot of people who came through to play their own independent roles. Times of crisis are always hard to deal with, but they are made easier when people step up, especially when you least expect them to," said Kaiman. "The Red Cross came through in a big way as did the carpenters union who volunteered their time to put up doors so that [residents] could go back to their apartments. Also, a lot of town employees made themselves available even though they weren't required. This whole incident was an eye-opener to me in terms of how various agencies act when an emergency occurs. Everyone made the emergency shelter a better place."

Town Councilman Robert Troiano agreed, saying, "The Red Cross did a very good job in keeping the residents at Tully Park comfortable [as well as] providing food, medical supervision and activities." He added that special thanks also goes to community resident Estelle Meyers. Meyers visited with the seniors at the shelter in an effort to make them more comfortable and prepared hot meals upon their return to Magnolia Gardens. "She did all of that through her own resources and help from community and church organizations," he said.

Kaiman added, "Estelle is a real hero. She showed such perseverance, staying day in and day out to keep the line of communication open for residents and help out if they had a problem. If there was a guardian angel in this whole incident, it was Estelle."

Magnolia Gardens is a three-story facility, located on Broadway, which is owned and operated by the North Hempstead Housing Authority, an independent agency from the town. The not-for-profit facility is federally funded through HUD and the housing authority receives $200,000 from the town each year to cover costs. Residents pay rent based on economic levels.


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