Nursing center celebrates with homeward bound Ike evacuees

By Holley Nees - bio | email

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - Fourteen Hurricane Ike evacuees at Whitehall Nursing Center were supposed to go home Tuesday after their going-away celebration, but their old nursing home was not quite ready for them, but that did not stop the party.

"They loaded us up and brought us up here," said Juanita Gibbs, an Ike evacuee.

Juanita has been at Whitehall Nursing Center ever since.

"They've been here for, since September, so it's been awhile.  They've really become part of our family, so we're all very close to them.  The community has really embraced them when they initially came," said Whitehall Administrator Alan Bass.

Now, it is time for the community to say their goodbyes.

"They've really enjoyed themselves here and in fact some plan to stay," Bass said.

That is Juanita's plan.

"It's good care and the aids know what they're doing and it has a homey atmosphere," she said.

Others cannot wait to go back to the place Ike took them from.

"I'm very excited to get home.  It's been almost a year over here now," said Vardinia Gonzales.

She has had a year of not knowing.

"I haven't heard from my family since we had the storm," Gonzales said.

She is sad to leave her new family behind.

"I was glad to be here and I love them all and I'm going to miss them," Gonzales said.

Juanita's mind is already made up.   She is just trying to help others do the same.

"I'm trying to talk one of them into staying.  I don't know how lucky I'm going to be, but I'm going to try," Juanita said.

For now, her new home is the icing on the cake.

"Nearly everybody has a story to tell you," she said.

Now, Juanita has one too.

The administator said those 14 evacuees will most likely be heading home sometime this week.