Source: Sherman Publications

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Edna Burton Center eyed as shelter

by Susan Bromley

January 22, 2014

Ortonville- It was a senior all-night party of a different sort Dec. 22-23.

Following an ice storm that knocked out power to most of the community, Annette Beach went to the Edna Burton Senior Center, powered up the building's generator and welcomed numerous area residents to the facility.

The generator, which cost about $9,000, was purchased last year from funds raised through various events including dinners and bake sales. The generator is able to run the entire building. About 13 residents who lost power at their homes enjoyed warmth, food, friendship and overnight accommodations at the senior center.

"We were here Sunday morning bright and early and I cooked dinner and made breakfast the next day and dinner the next night and they played cards and played pool and games like Yahtzee, and there were a couple different puzzles going. We kept them all warm and busy, they were occupied and safe."

The youngest person who spent the night was 23, while the eldest was 88 and got the couch. A few slept on the floor. They brought pillows and blankets from home. Beach slept in a chair.

"My family was like, 'Come home, Grandma,' and I said, 'I have to stay with my senior center family. I'll be home for Christmas,'" Beach said.

By 10 p.m., Dec. 23, everyone had gone home. Now there are plans in the works to make the Edna Burton Senior Center, 345 Ball St., an emergency shelter.

Brandon Fire Chief Dave Kwapis noted that the Community Emergency Response Team has looked at different facilities in the past to get listed as emergency shelters, but it would take time to have them activated and staffed. The senior center has several advantages as an emergency shelter— it is already open during the week, meals can be made there, it is licensed with the health department, and now the facility has a generator, ensuring power at all times.

"We are going to do a formal process, a review of the building and make sure if there are any safety deficiencies, they are taken care of," said Kwapis. "We will set everything up so next time, there is more notification for anyone that wants to come in."

He added that the building won't house 100 people, just be a small shelter, with maybe 10-20 people overnight and 30 or 40 during the day.

"It's meant for the senior citizens that need a temporary place and don't have anywhere else to go," he said. "If you have a family member that has power, that's where you should be, but for those who don't have someone in the area, it's a perfect fit."