Recent storm reveals big problems for local seniors

Surrey Hills Estates Senior Living residents in need

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Tina Mathes and Drayton Gibbes stand beside the food pantry located on the east side of the Surrey Hills Estates Senior Living Community complex. (Photo by Carol Mowdy Bond)

By Carol Mowdy Bond
Contributing Writer

The senior citizen residents living at the Surrey Hills Estates Senior Living Community complex, located at 11300 Surrey Hills Boulevard, need many items, said local resident Tina Mathes. The new complex is located beside The Golf Club at Surrey Hills, 11340 Surrey Hills Boulevard, located in the Surrey Hills subdivision.

Mathes’ father lives in the apartment complex. She said the October ice storm revealed that numerous of the complex residents do not have basics for everyday living. Some are food insecure. And some are encountering dangerous and/or frustrating situations in their apartments and the hallways. Some residents do not own vehicles, making their situations worse.

When the storm hit and the power went out, Mathes realized many of the residents were stuck in a perilous situation.

Mathes said, “Most people don’t realize this senior living complex is here. I just live around the corner here in Surrey Hills. And the complex lost power Monday, October 26 at 9:08 a.m. Power was restored Thursday, October 29 about 4 p.m. There are a lot of great people here. And I’m very passionate about the elderly. These residents need a voice.”

Without electricity, Mathes said residents were sitting in pitch dark with no heat and no light of any kind. She said most did not own flashlights.

“When the power went out, the emergency backup lights did not come on, nor did the exit signs light up,” Mathes said. “Residents with mobility issues, who live on the third floor, were stuck because the elevators were not working. As well, in order to enter the facility, people need a code to open the exterior doors. The code is powered by electricity. So when the power went out, if residents went outside for any reason, they were unable to get back into the building. And even in normal circumstances, cell phone service inside the building is either spotty or does not work at all. So, many residents had no way to call for help.

Many of us contacted management and corporate on numerous issues related to the storm. There was little or no response. But corporate did provide the residents with one meal.”
“Even in good weather, residents have to go outside to make a phone call,” Mathes said.

“And even without a storm, the exit signs do not light up. And they have a safe room, but there is no emergency lighting in that room. It is pitch dark if they go into the safe room during a storm.”

“I am working to create a community system for the residents, so if they ever find themselves in need again they have an outlet,” Mathes said. “I have started a Facebook group for them, and placed a food pantry box so anyone may drop off non-perishable food and hygiene products, including toilet paper. Alysha Hoisington, who lives in the Surrey Hills Sundance addition, provided the upright food pantry box. It is well marked and is located on the east side of the building, next to the entrance, and is facing east. People who want to donate may do so simply by opening the pantry door and placing non-perishable food on the shelves. I also have overflow baskets next to it. Certain residents go outside daily to bring the food and items inside, and give the items to residents who need them.”

The complex is partially Section 8 housing, but it is not federal Section 8. It is Section 8 through the State of Oklahoma. Some of the residents apply for assistance through Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services to get help paying their rent, in order to lease an apartment at the complex.

Resident Drayton Gibbes moved into the complex on December 1, 2019. Gibbes said, “Residents must be 62 or older. There are a lot of us here who are on low, fixed incomes. The apartments are all one bedroom, and 650 square feet in size. Each apartment comes with appliances, and management and maintenance are responsible to fix things when they break. But management and maintenance are not very responsive. Also, this is not an assisted living center. But management has leased apartments to people who need to be in assisted living.”

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The complex has approximately 87 apartment units, with about 100 people currently in residence.

Gibbes said, “During the ice storm, as residents, we would have been lost without Tina. She has been a god send.”

Mathes said she didn’t do it all by herself.

“Piedmont residents and people in Surrey Hills brought food, flashlights and other items to the residents,” said Mathes. “Also, Lotus Gold provided meals for the residents. And on Friday, October 30, Jacob Miller, who owns On The Fence OKC, and I, took our own money.

We went to Subway and bought a meal for each resident. And because residents lost power, they lost all the food in their refrigerators. They’re on fixed incomes and the loss happened at the end of the month, so they didn’t have the money to replace their refrigerated food. So, on Saturday, October 31, Ryan Buntain came up with a plan. As part of The Fat Guy Club in Mustang and Yukon, established by Kyle Moody, they bought refrigerated foods, filling 2 1/2 pickup trucks. And they gave it all to the residents here.”

Some of the residents do not need help and are totally independent, Mathes said. But Mathes and Gibbes said, of others who live in the complex, many are on low and fixed incomes. And there’s always a need for food, clothing, furniture, and other items such as LED lanterns, flashlights, toilet paper, paper towels, hygiene items, and other basic necessities. Some residents have no family, or their family members live out of state.

The Department of Human Services gives some residents help through Mona’s Meals and Golden Gourmet. But not all the residents are eligible.

Non-perishable foods, and hygiene and other items may be donated and placed in the food pantry and baskets on the east side of the Surrey Hills Estate Senior Apartment Living complex, 11300 Surrey Hills Boulevard in Yukon. To donate cold, frozen, or hot foods, or help with other needs, contact Tina Mathes through the Facebook page Surrey Hills Senior Living Community.