Family and friends show support to their loved ones Friday during a parade at Maplecrest Rehabilitation & Living Center in Madison. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

MADISON — Dozens of signs expressing messages of love, support and hope were left at the Maplecrest nursing home afflicted with an outbreak of COVID-19 following a vehicle parade around the facility on Friday afternoon.

The parade, organized by Steve Austin, began at 2 p.m. with participants lining their decorated vehicles up on Heald Street. On the one month anniversary of the community being notified of the outbreak at the facility that has infected 39 staff and residents and led to six deaths, he said that he was thinking of ways to show support to those who live and work in the building.

“I decided if they’re going to do parades for birthdays, why can’t we do the same thing around the outside of the perimeter of the nursing home?” Austin said.

Businesses around the community have rallied to support staff and patients through donations, including apples and pies to the residents all week and the donation of a family pizza meal from Fonzo’s Pizza, Seafood & More, for the best decorated vehicle.

“Everybody has played their part and showed support in one way or another,” Austin said.

Austin said that Maplecrest is one of the only care facilities in the area, and many friends and family members of community members end up there as long-term residents or rehab patients. He added that his mother was once a day program attendee.

“For me it was important to show the people that we care about them even though we can’t go in to visit them or spend any time with them,” Austin said. “We can at least show them support through the window where they can look out and at least have one day where they don’t have to think about the virus and think about the support that the community wants to show them.”

Wanda Kranz, who was a full-time volunteer at Maplecrest before COVID protocols went into place in March, said that she has missed the residents and was close to one of the six patients who died.

“One of the residents that we lost was like a sister to me,” Kranz said. “I was devastated to find out afterwards and that I couldn’t be there at the end.”

Multiple requests for comment from Mary Jane Richards, a spokesperson from North Country Associates which oversees Maplecrest, have gone unanswered.

Lydia Blodgett, 5, waves to residents at Maplecrest Rehabilitation & Living Center on Friday as she and her grandmother, Wanda Krantz, driving, participate in a car parade in Madison. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Kranz expressed anger over the situation that has isolated residents inside the building and restricted them to their bedrooms.

“I am devastated,” Kranz said. “(The Aug. 7 Millinocket wedding attendees) should have been more careful. I’m angry. I feel real bad for the couple. It’s one thing if you’re together with your own family and you know who people have been around, but when you get a large group together like that, you’re asking for trouble, and they got it.

“My friend died, 39 people have been affected so far and six residents have died because of this,” Kranz said. “Thank god it hasn’t gone to other nursing homes, but this is horrible. Hello, people, wake up. I’m very angry, very, very angry.”

Despite her feelings about the outbreak, Kranz was thrilled to see the turnout that arrived on Heald Street on Friday afternoon. Donations of gourds and small pumpkins are being accepted to give to the residents at Maplecrest, which can be left at the door of the facility, she said.

“I’m glad that (Austin) came up with this idea,” Kranz said.

One vehicle that participated in the parade came from Ventures Community Supports. Direct Support Professional Brianna Lagada said that this was a great way to get residents out and supporting the community.

“It’s just nice to be out with my clients, especially in such a difficult time, to support other residents who are also having a difficult time within our community,” Lagada said.

The family of Katie Ouilette, a 90-year-old resident at Maplecrest, was also at the nursing home to show their support. Their vehicle was decorated with posters and photos of Ouilette.

Dave Loubier, a relative of Ouilette, said that his family was supposed to meet in July to celebrate her 90th birthday, but COVID restrictions changed those plans. On Thursday, he and his family, some traveling from Bellingham, Washington, stopped by Maplecrest to deliver treats to Ouilette.

“We dropped her off some fudge and were able to hold pictures up by her window and tell her we loved her,” Loubier said. “…(the outbreak) should not have happened, but it will take a lot more to bring this woman down.”

The parade entered through the back of the facility, looped around the front, then went through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru next door so that residents on all sides of the building could watch before the parade circled back onto Heald Street.

Austin said that the posters and decorations that were used on vehicles would be left at Maplecrest so that they could be displayed throughout the facility.


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