Tillsonburg rallies behind Maple Manor staff, residents

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It started as a tearful conversation between sisters – one working on the front lines of Oxford County’s largest COVID-19 outbreak.

Now, Tillsonburg has come together to rally behind the staff and residents of Maple Manor, a long-terms care home where nearly every resident has contracted COVID-19 and 11 people have died.

Corry Hill Davis said her sister Cristie has worked as a nurse at Maple Manor for 26 years. During a recent conversation with her sister, as the outbreak grew, Hill Davis said she felt hopeless and wondered what she could do to help the staff and residents at the beleaguered nursing home.

“(My sister) broke down and I broke down and I said, ‘What can I do? She said, crying, ‘We could really use some scrub caps.’ I went home, put a blurb on Facebook … (and) it’s to the point where I am overwhelmed at the flood of support from the community,” Hill Davis said.

At Maple Manor, 80 residents and 48 staff have now contracted COVID-19, the health unit for Oxford and Elgins counties reported Tuesday. A week ago, the home had reported 50 resident infections.

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“It’s the whole community. Everyone is doing what they can. (Maple Manor) needs to know the community is there for them and they are not alone,” said Cathy Ryan, administrator of the local Talk Tillsonburg Facebook group, where she has co-ordinated much of the planning between the group’s members.

“Staff have gotten sick, they’re recovering and coming back to work, and the residents, we’re almost at capacity for all the residents to have gotten COVID-19 and that’s a lot of sickness.”

Efforts really kicked off after the holidays, when the outbreak declared Dec. 16 at Maple Manor began to get worse. In the past week, community members have raised more than $350, and much more in gift cards and meals. There have also been other small gestures to raise the spirits of staff and residents, Ryan said. The group members, she added, have worked closely with the home’s staff to ensure all of their efforts are COVID compliant.

Last week, a group of residents pulled together a physically distant “dog-walking parade” around the building for residents to enjoy from their windows. Signs and posters – donated by local businesses or made by the town daycares – have been placed around the building to cheer on the home’s staff while an Oxford County teen has played the bagpipes in front of the building. One woman donated more than 150 origami butterflies to place in resident rooms.

There’s been a push for meals, both for on-duty staff and workers staying at a local hotel who have no cooking facilities as they isolate from their families. The local Sobeys donated 100 individual bags of snacks for the staff, acknowledging the workers can’t share their food, while many other businesses have sent meals and treats. 

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“My sister, she wouldn’t be eating properly. The amount of support for meals and gift cards has been helping,” Hill Davis said. “The entire community, everyone has pulled together and worked together and that’s what community should be.”

Right now, the group is challenging more businesses to light up their own signs in support of Maple Manor.

Whether it’s a meal, or a song or a sign of support in the window, Ryan said the key is showing the home’s staff and residents they’re not alone.

“They’re all locked in, and Maple Manor needs to know they’re not sitting in there alone. We can’t come in – we can’t see them – but what we can do islet them know we’re here.”