Help arrives for seniors living without food or electricity

The senior residence were stranded when the staff went home, so people are pitching in to get them fed.

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Help has finally arrived for nearly 200 seniors living in the Hampton of Clearwater Independent Living Facility on McMullen Booth Road.  

The building lost power during Hurricane Irma and residents who normally rely on the facility’s dining room for their meals, had nothing to eat.

When 10News first visited the facility on Monday night, we found a pitch-black building with elderly residents using flashlights and candles with only emergency lighting to illuminate the hallways.

“There are a lot of people here in wheelchairs, they can’t walk, they don’t cook and they’re stranded,” said Alberta Connor, who lives at The Hampton.

As the Hurricane Irma approached, the facility’s staff was sent home, meaning the nearly 200 seniors living here were on their own.

“It’s very difficult to go on like this,” Connor said. “It’s like what do we do next?”

The closure of the building’s dining room was among the biggest concerns. It’s where many of the seniors eat three meals a day.

“There’s no power, there’s no one to bring any food to them. They’re on their own,” Roger Harpole said. His mother-in-law lives at The Hampton. When he and his wife Lori heard about the situation they wanted to help.

“There were many people at The Hampton who depend on the kitchen for their three meals a day.  And they in many cases would even bring them up to their apartments,” Lori O’Connell-Harpole said. “Many of them had no food, they didn’t shop in general, they didn’t have anyone local to bring anything into them.  We had to do something.”

Lori and Roger contacted a close friend, John Brinker who manages the nearby Publix at Boot Ranch.

“I told him the situation and he said we can’t have this, let’s get the ball rolling,” recalls Roger.

The Publix was swamped with customers after reopening earlier in the day, but quickly put together enough food for the hungry seniors.

"It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t even believe it myself,” said an astonished Val Valentino, who lives at The Hampton. "It was like a mob, like people never ate before. It was free food, but it was fresh!

"They had cold cuts, ham and turkey and fresh bread! There must have been 10 loafs!”

“They were down here immediately,” said Hampton resident Joann House.  “One fellow was down here and said he hadn’t eaten in three days.”

While Duke Energy was able to restore power to the building around noon Tuesday, residents aren’t sure when the dining room will reopen.

Until then, they want to make sure the most in need among them get fed.

“This is what this food is for. It’s for people who can’t get out.  There {are} people stuck in their rooms that are unable to get out.  And we hoped we could get food to them.”

Roger and Lori say these residents won’t be forgotten anymore.

“I’ll always be there for them and anyone who needs help.  I’ll be there,” Harpole said.  “I got big hugs, and that’s all I love {are} hugs. I don’t ask for anything else but hugs.”

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