DOTHAN, AL – Evacuees from a Panama City retirement community are settling in for a short time in Dothan at Wesley Place on Honeysuckle while waiting on repairs to their own community. The nonprofit owner of both retirement homes, Methodist Homes of Alabama & Northwest Florida, decided to evacuate Mathison Retirement Community when Hurricane Michael became a clear threat to the Florida panhandle.

“Our residents have shown great compassion and understanding,” said Patrick Davies, Executive Director of Wesley Place on Honeysuckle. “They have treated those displaced by the hurricane as extended family by making them feel welcome and included.”

Senior adult evacuees like Thelma Churchwell are making the best of their temporary home in Dothan even though they were not prepared for the extended stay that the evacuation turned out to be.

“I think I was numb to the entire experience until now,” said Thelma. “It happened so fast you didn’t have time to get scared or do anything but pack and get ready to go.”

About half of Mathison’s residents evacuated with family members, and others, like Thelma, left on Tuesday ahead of the storm on a company bus bound for a Montgomery hotel. Expecting to return shortly after the storm, the Mathison residents were told to grab three days’ worth of clothing and necessities.

The bus made stop for lunch at Wesley Place on Honeysuckle that afternoon before continuing on to Montgomery to wait. Another Methodist Home community, Wesley Gardens, offered its personnel and services to help care for the displaced retirees at the hotel.

Christopher Tomlin, President & CEO of Methodist Homes, was on the bus that brought the Panama City evacuees to safety. “This experience has taught us how fortunate we are to have a network of retirement and health care communities,” Christopher said. “Helping our Panama City residents get the food and care they need on the road would have been much harder if we had not been able to depend on help from our other communities in Dothan, Montgomery and Birmingham.”

By late Wednesday night, it became apparent that the Mathison evacuees would need to find alternate housing, at least for the short-term future. The Methodist Homes in Pensacola, Montgomery, Birmingham and Dothan each doubled down to offer space for the evacuees. Thelma chose Dothan as her temporary home to be as close as possible to her two sons, who both live in the Panama City area.

“I’m thankful to have a bed and good food,” Thelma said. “My son says that I should be glad I’m here. That the stores were not open and he felt better having me here than there.”

Personnel from Methodist Homes and Wesley Place on Honeysuckle have made several trips to Panama City to retrieve various personal items for the displaced Mathison residents. Thelma asked for her computer and her bedroom TV and was touched when the assisted living administrator, Vivian Readus, thoughtfully picked up three family pictures from Thelma’s Panama City apartment and brought them back to her. “She told me she thought the pictures would help make me feel more at home,” Thelma recounted.

Thelma offers a piece of advice for people who may find themselves in a similar situation someday. “Always take your most important papers,” she urged. “Medical records are so important.” Thelma has learned the hard way since she has had difficulty reaching the Panama City physician’s office. “It’s just a case of you think it’s not going to happen to you.”

For more information on making Wesley Place on Honeysuckle your home, call us at 334-792-0921 or visit our Contact page.

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