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Assisted living facilities take in Hurricane Matthew evacuees from Savannah
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Gracemont Senior Living recently took in evacuees from several assisted living facilities in Savannah, where Gov. Nathan Deal ordered mandatory evacuations.

With Hurricane Matthew recently making landfall in Florida at the end of the week and moving its way up the east coast, Forsyth County is stepping up efforts to help those affected by the storm.

Gracemont Senior Living and Towne Club Windermere recently took in evacuees from several assisted living facilities in Savannah, where Gov. Nathan Deal ordered mandatory evacuations.

Six counties on the Georgia coast received the order between Wednesday and Friday, with voluntary evacuations in effect for residents west of Interstate-95, according to The Weather Channel.

Those taken in by Gracemont, which is in north Forsyth, currently live at one of the facility’s sister communities; the parent organization, Five Star Senior Living, has 280 communities across the country.

Though 38 seniors were brought to Gracemont, staff and their families, all of whom were evacuated, also have been taken in.

This has kept staff busy, said Kara Marinko, executive director at Gracemont.

She said she is grateful for the help emergency officials have provided, specifically the Forsyth County Fire Department, whose firefighters helped set up the 38 hospital beds that were delivered to the senior facility Thursday.

“They were amazing; they came back and were literally carrying people off the bus,” she said. “I’ve been amazed by them.”

Gracemont received 16 memory care patients and 22 seniors who need assisted living.

While they now have the beds to sleep residents, it’s the staff and families from the sister facility Marinko says she is concerned about.

“It’s just a wait and see now,” she said. “They don’t know what they are going to return to or what [shape] the area will be in.”

She said volunteers have been coming out of the woodwork.

At Towne Club Windermere, 17 seniors arrived on Friday from a center in Savannah. They will be in town until about Monday.

“They actually had for a plan for a community closer to Savannah, and as the storm broadened, they had to evacuate that other community and reached out to us late [Thursday] night asking if we could help out,” said LaDonna Hagen, executive director of the facility in south Forysth.

Hagen said the experience was rewarding for both sides.

“When you [know] the devastation that’s occurring already and to know that some of our most fragile, frail residents, our seniors, are being affected by that, it’s quite an emotional experience,” she said, “but it’s amazing to see how excited they were to get off the bus here, and they were very grateful, as we are to have them here.”

Central EMS was also activated by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (EMA) on Thursday afternoon to assist in the evacuation of more than 80 patients from medical facilities in southern Georgia.

Patients will be transported to facilities throughout the state that can meet the level of care needed.

Staff writer Kelly Whitmire contributed to this report.