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Seniors forced to move after The Gardens announces closure

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 10:07 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - An eviction order in the middle of a pandemic leaves a community of seniors scrambling to find a new place by the end of the year.

According to a letter from Independent Living Inc. obtained by NBC15 News, The Gardens Retirement Community will close on December 29.

“We recognize how this situation might thrust residents and family members into emotional and financial turmoil,” the letter wrote.

The letter, dated November 6, left residents with less than two months to find new homes.

“I swear. My sight has gotten worse since this shock. I just don’t know what to do,” 90-year-old resident Nancy Miller said. “We have to do this in such a hurry. Some people don’t have family here. I’m lucky I have a daughter here, but she teaches online, so she doesn’t have much time to help me.”

“Everybody wants to know, ‘What am I going to do? What am I going to do?’” Marjorie Pope, a resident since 2009, said. “People are really in question. They don’t know what to do.”

Residents said they saw writing on the wall, citing financial problems in recent years. NBC15 found court records from 2019 showing Independent Living failed to pay back a nearly $17 million loan.

The company did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The letter continued to refer residents to social workers at Attic Angel Management Services. President Mary Ann Drescher confirmed, her organization was tapped to take the lead in relocation services.

“Out of that concern for the residents-- that’s why Independent Living recognized it would take more resources than they had available to do that right now,” she said.

As of Wednesday, Drescher said half of the 48 residents, had found places to go.

“The idea that I won’t see them again,” Pope said, “that’s going to be hard because you make good friends, and we’ve had good friends here.”

Residents also described a potential new buyer of The Gardens building. An attorney, reportedly familiar with the purchase, declined to comment, saying “that is the position of the board.”

Changes to Meals on Wheels

The Gardens also had a contract with Evening Meals on Wheels, to serve food out of its kitchen to seniors in the community.

Meals on Wheels has been taken over by a new management company called Marquardt. Program manager Addie Endreson says meals will now come out of the Madison-based group Food Fight, and there will be no interruptions to service.

“Our intention is to grow the Evening Meals on Wheels program from our current average of 150 meals per day to 300,” Endreson said, adding Marquardt is not involved in decisions to evict the residents.

SSM Health, which runs the daytime Meals on Wheels, said there will be no impact to its program.

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