ATLANTA - There will be smiles and, perhaps, a few tears Saturday, as about 75 staff members of the Park Springs Life Plan Community in Stone Mountain, Georgia, are reunited with their friends and families for the first time since April 1, 2020.
They've been in a self-imposed coronavirus lockdown for 75 days, organized by Isakson Living Chief Operating Officer Donna Moore.
"It feels exciting," Moore says. "It feels like we're ready like done what we set out to do. But, it's also a little bittersweet, because we've become a family in here, and I don't want to let that go."
Early this spring, as the novel coronavirus began to ravage nursing homes on the West Coast, Moore knew her residents were vulnerable, especially those in the facility's long-term care and memory care units.
"We knew we had to act fast, and we knew we had to act aggressively," Moore says. "We knew that (reducing) human traffic was the single most important thing that we could do to protect our members."
Moore wanted to put this community of about 500 members into lockdown.
"My intent was to put everything on the table, and to leave nothing unchecked," she says.
Moore says she knew she was asking a lot of her staff members.
She requested volunteers willing to put their lives on hold to move onto their campus, quarantine for two weeks, and then stay for as long as they were needed.
About 75 raised their hands.
They expected to stay two weeks, a month, max.
That was two and a half months ago.
"I mean something magical happened in here to us," Moore says.
For Nadia Williams, volunteering meant missing her sister's wedding.
So, they improvised, and she stood by her sister's side, as maid of honor, wearing a dress she found months ago, on Zoom.
Williams says she chose to stay for the members has grown to love.
"This is a story I will definitely tell for generations to come," Williams says. "I was part of a group of people who are true heroes, in every sense of the word."
Donna Moore says it has not really hit her yet that they are going home.
"I'm sure I will cry when I see my children on Saturday," Moore says. "But, I think the impact is bigger than that. I think it's changed me as a leader. The memo can wait, connecting with our employees, connecting with our members can't."
She's spent the last 75 days sleeping on a blow-up mattress in a tent set up in the conference room.
Asked what Moore will remember most about this time in her life, her answer is simple.
"Falling in love with my people," she says.
Tomorrow, Moore says, she will head home, reunited with her family and pets, and then spend some time in her garden, catching up on how here hostas are doing.
Then, she says, she will go see her mom Barbara.
"I want to go put my arms around her neck and be with her," Moore smiles.