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Caring after crisis

CONTIBUTED PHOTOS — Residents of The Embers found shelter and care at The Willows after the 2018 tornado caused damage to the facility.

When the tornado hit Marshalltown in 2018, residents of The Embers Retirement Community were displaced due to damage. This included broken windows, shattered glass and debris strewn through units, plus a power outage.

In this time of crisis, Ben and Mira Daniels, owners of The Willows of Marshalltown Assisted Living and Memory Care, stepped up. With The Willows construction finished on the building and the grand opening a few weeks away, they took in The Embers residents for more than a month.

The Daniels said they notified Mayor Joel Greer and other city officials that The Willows was available to help those affected by the tornado free of charge. Less than 24 hours after the tornado caused damage across town, 26 Embers residents had moved in.

The number grew the following week, culminating in more than 30 displaced residents at The Willows.

“We saw it as an opportunity to show Marshalltown who we really are. We were proud of The Willows for rising to the challenge as a new business,” the Daniels said. “We had staff who stayed overnight with us at The Willows, sometimes weeks at a time to make sure that our guests were comfortable and had everything they needed.”

With the help of the community, they were able to care for the residents. The Daniels said the amount of support was amazing, with individuals, churches and community groups providing food, toiletries and supplies for residents.

They said it was an easy decision to take in the displaced residents.

“The Willows was uniquely designed to meet the needs and comfort of seniors. We did not hesitate when we found out that a community of seniors had been displaced,” they said. “We opened our doors early because our neighbors at The Embers needed a safe place and we had one. We were so glad we could offer that to them after all they had been through. It was as simple as that.”

They said The Embers residents were very thankful and wrote letters of gratitude to staff. The Daniels were happy they were able to provide a safe place for them.

“The Willows is family owned and, in our family, we help our neighbors in a time of need. Our mission at The Willows is to elevate the quality of life for seniors in Marshalltown with a caring and supportive community to call home. We were able to live that mission when we opened our doors to The Embers,” they said.

The Daniels were not the only ones who reached out to the community after the tornado. Residents of Marshalltown and individuals across the state helped neighbors.

Ben and Mira are proud of the Marshalltown community and staff at The Willows.

They said all of Marshalltown responded with optimism and empathy after the tornado.

“The tornado that hit Marshalltown was a tragedy and saw many people lose their homes and businesses. But Marshalltown is a strong community,” they said. “We got to see what happens when a community pulls together and takes care of its own. We all got to experience the tremendous love, support and human kindness that exists in this world.”

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Contact Anna Shearer at 641-753-6633 or ashearer@timesrepublican.com.

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