Chester Berry seniors still stuck, but remain in high spirits

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 3, 2012

 Doug Trocino, director of Eastside Teen Outreach, and son Tony, 12, take out the garbage for seniors at Chester Berry Manor.

Doug Trocino, director of Eastside Teen Outreach, and son Tony, 12, take out the garbage for seniors at Chester Berry Manor.

Photo by Sara Kandel


EASTPOINTE — Immobile seniors living in the upper levels at Chester Berry Manor in Eastpointe were still stranded in their homes as elevator repairs continued last week.

The elevator has been out since Jan. 24, when during an annual load inspection, it was discovered that one of the pistons was leaking and rusted. The piston was removed Jan. 30 and work continued as scheduled through press time.

“We originally estimated that it would be out for two to four weeks, and work is still progressing with that timeline,” said Eastpointe Housing Commission Director Jody Ling, who runs Erin Manor and Chester Berry Manor as part of the commission. “We’re hoping that all the work will be completed by the four-week mark.”

The work being done on the elevator, as described by Ling, is very labor intensive and involved workers having to first hoist the elevator up to the fifth floor, then secure it there and build scaffolding down the elevator chute before they could even remove the piston last Monday afternoon.

Ling didn’t know just how long it would take for the work to be completed, but she said she’s doing everything in her power to keep the seniors comfortable while the elevator is out. And for most seniors here, that seems to be more than enough.

“I got arthritis in my knee and I got COPD, so it’s hard for me to breathe when I come up them stairs,” said third-floor resident Pauline Sciacchitano. “I can’t breathe — that’s what makes it rough — but we’ll get by. The kids are out here offering to help if we need, it and we’ll be OK until the elevator is fixed. I hope they get it done soon though.”

Ling offered to cover the cost for residents who wish to move to a hotel while the repairs are under way, but none took her up on the offer.

“CST Technologies out of Farmington Hills said they’d provide a med alert pendant to any seniors that wanted a free 30-day trial with free installation,” Ling said. “Of the 85 residents on floors two through five that we made those offers to Friday, we had two people respond. Both wanted the necklace. No one wanted to be relocated. This tells me that the majority of the residents are handling the situation very well.”

In addition to those offers, both commission employees and volunteers have offered to run errands for stranded seniors.

Doug Trocino, director of Eastside Teen Outreach, has shown up at the center daily Monday through Friday at 3 p.m. with a van full of teens who go door-to-door asking if anyone needs help.

A handful of seniors take them up on the offer and hand over any garbage that needs to be taken out or keys to a mailbox that needs to be checked. Some ask for help getting groceries. Others ask for help with laundry or errands. Then there are those who don’t need any help but like to talk to the teens anyway.

“It takes less than an hour and what’s cool is some of the seniors don’t need help, but boy they sure appreciate someone making themselves available,” Trocino said. “The kids are able to see that appreciation too and that’s really nice. We’ll be here every weekday until the elevators are fixed.”

“I just like helping people, and the old people are cool,” said Michelle McCurry, and 18-year-old ETO member. “I like talking to them. I’m going to come back. I want to come visit some of them that seem lonely or wanted to talk.”

In addition to volunteer efforts, the Eastpointe Fire Department has stepped up in offering help to immobile seniors who need to leave the building.

“We have one man who needs to get dialysis three times a week at 7 a.m.,” Ling said. “He’s in a wheelchair and can’t get down the stairs, so the Fire Department comes out and carries him down from the fifth floor and back up to it six time a week. They’ve been so wonderful and really deserve kudos for that. We’re so appreciative of them.”

It’s not an easy situation, but with the support of the staff, volunteers and the Fire
Department most of the seniors at Chester Berry Manor have remained in high spirits. Rather than being angry about the situation, many offer appreciation to the staff and volunteers who are there to offer a helping hand every day.

“The staff has been wonderful,” said fifth-floor resident Paulette Hubbard. “They went beyond. They’ve gone to the market for us. The kids knock on every door to see if we need anything. They are here every day offering to help. They even offered to put us up in a hotel and give us emergency alert necklaces for free while the elevator is being fixed. This is just something that happened. Things happen all the time, and the staff has been great through out it.”