Gus Noble, the president and CEO of Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care in North Riverside, said recently that he and his employees made a very simple vow to each other when the COVID-19 pandemic started two years ago.
“One of the things I did personally with all of our staff at the beginning of the COVID crisis was ask them to care for one another,” Noble said, adding that he, in turn, vowed to care for them.
That stated commitment was tested on June 13, when the supercell storm that darkened most of the Chicago area ripped the roof off of Alexes Williams’ apartment on the top floor of a Bellwood building.
Williams, who works as a CNA at Caledonia, was at her second job in Waukegan when she got a call that night from one of her sons.
“I had just gotten to work, when he called me hysterically,” she recalled during an interview on June 20. “It sounded like he had just woken up. He said the ceiling just fell.”
In disbelief, Williams told her son to FaceTime her. On the phone, she saw a gaping hole where the ceiling had been.
“I saw the sky and the wind blowing and the rain,” she said. “I told my supervisor that I had to go and I rushed home.”
Williams, who lived on the third floor of the building with her three children — two boys, 18 and 16, and her daughter, 5 — said none of her children were hurt. The family, however, is still living through trauma.
On June 13, Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey said that while no major injuries were reported, roughly 30 families, including Williams’, were displaced.
The village’s emergency bus transported some of them to the Bellwood Village Hall, which served as a temporary shelter for those who needed it. Meanwhile, the American Red Cross gave those who were displaced some resources, including debit cards to help pay for hotel stays and food.
Williams and her daughter are currently staying in a hotel in Hillside while her two sons are staying with relatives.
Noble, sticking with his commitment to care, has offered Williams temporary shelter at Caledonia if she needs it. She’s also welcome to food, he said.
“If we have the ability to make sure she has a roof over her head and a meal on the table, we’re going to do that,” Noble said. “I said if you want breakfast, lunch and dinner, just call me or text me.
“Obviously, it won’t be forever, but I don’t want to see her go without shelter,” Noble said. “She’s so kindhearted to her coworkers and to the residents here.”
Williams said that, for now, she’s focused on gathering the remainder of her things from the Bellwood property. She said the landlord has returned her security deposit and notified tenants that the building probably won’t be habitable for at least another two years.
Williams, who works nights, also needs to find childcare for her young daughter, since her sons, who would take care of their younger sister when their mother was away, are currently living with other people.
In the meantime, Williams’ cousin, Valencia Johnson, has organized a GoFundMe campaign that, as of June 20, had raised $3,400 of its $5,000 goal.
Williams said she appreciates the all-hands-on-deck support from her cousin and Caledonia, since she doesn’t have immediate family to fall back on. And Noble said he’s going to provide as much support as he can.
“She only works for us one day a week, but it doesn’t matter whether it’s full time or just one day,” Noble said. “She’s a member of the family and we got her back.”